Saturday, April 30, 2016

What I'm Listening to: April 2016




Album of the Month: PJ Harvey-The Hope Six Demolition Project



If there’s one person who is pretty much making unparalleled with anyone at the moment, it’s PJ Harvey. Dating back to her 1992 debut album Dry, Harvey has been making albums with such consistency and care as she is someone that continuously pushes her own boundaries and never makes the same record twice. Her ninth (eleventh if you count her work with John Parish) studio release is no different as it is her most socially-conscious record to date as many of the lyrics relate to people who are disenfranchised in places as Washington D.C. Kosovo, and Afghanistan. Musically, Harvey harkens back to earlier ideas while delving into other ideas such as psychedelia, blues and folk as cuts like A Line in the Sand and The Wheel are prime examples of a woman who has no equal. While other female artists like Beyonce and Taylor Swift maybe selling more records and be seen as icons. Neither of those bitches hold a candle to what Polly Jean Harvey is doing.

Song/Single of the Month: Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions-Isn’t It True/She’s in the Wall


Whenever Hope Sandoval is coming out with something new whether it’s in Mazzy Star or in her project the Warm Inventions with My Bloody Valentine drummer Colm O’Ciosoig. It’s always exciting to hear as the leading single from their upcoming third album showcases that amazing voice with some amazing instrumentation. The first single is just upbeat thanks in part to O’Ciosoig’s drumming while the B-side is just this simple folk-ballad as Sandoval’s dreamy and nocturnal vocals are just seductive. There are really no vocalists like her and hearing her again is a joy.

Video of the Month: D’Angelo w/ Princess (Maya Rudolph & Gretchen Lieberbaum)-Sometimes It Snows in April


Every tribute towards Prince has of late has everyone doing the song Purple Rain which is fine and all but Prince fans know there’s so much more to the man. On The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, D’Angelo decided to do something else and what better song to pay tribute to Prince than one of his most beloved ballads with the aid of Maya Rudolph and Gretchen Lieberbaum on backing vocals. It’s just a simple piano ballad that is really one of his most touching songs. Yet, when D’Angelo says Prince’s name is where for anyone that is a fan. Yes, the tears will start flowing as this is just the best tribute to Prince himself from my point of view.

Monthly Mini-Reviews

Deftones-Gore



Though they’re unfortunately lumped into that sub-genre of late 90s/early 2000 metal known as nu-metal, what Korn, Linkin Park, and Limp Bizkit lack isn’t just consistency but also the will to push themselves musically. The band’s eighth studio release isn’t just an album that is very heavy musically and sonically but also has the band just doing so much more while taking risks as they’re pretty much at a point where they don’t need to coast on their past glories. It’s not just the single Prayer/Triangles that is a key example but also cuts like Doomed User, Hearts/Wires, and the title track that show that they can still be heavy but also have a sense of melody as Deftones have now affirmed themselves as one of the premier metal bands like those that had done so much to the genre like Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Metallica.


Autolux-Pussy’s Dead



For all of the praise that is lavished on mediocre acts like Maroon 5 and Coldplay, it is clear that the one band the public really need to hear is Autolux as their third album Pussy’s Dead is just incredible. With its mixtures of blues, art-rock, and jazz, the album showcases a sense of musicianship that isn’t heard a lot through the playing of its bassist Eugene Goreshter, guitarist Ken Andrews (from the band Failure), and drummer Carla Azar as they all sing. Songs like the single Soft Scene, Listen to the Order, Junk for Code, and Brainwasher showcase music that is dangerous yet exciting as this is a band more people really should discover.


The Joy Formidable-Hitch



One of the newer and more exciting bands to emerge in the past five years, the Joy Formidable have brought a sound that is a mixture of straight-ahead rock with elements of shoe gaze that made their 2011 debut album The Big Roar one of the year’s finest. While their sophomore release two years later in Wolf’s Law was a good album, it didn’t have the immediacy or strength of the first. The band’s third release doesn’t just mark a newfound maturity in the band musically but also in terms of its production where the band produced the record themselves at the home of vocalist/guitarist Ritzy Bryan outside of Molds in Wales. It’s not just that sound of the band is fuller but also with a sense of confidence in songs like the single The Last Thing on My Mind as well as cuts like Liana, The Brook, and The Gift where it’s not just the band displaying a musicianship in the more rock-based songs. They also dabble with folk and traditional musical genres as it shows a band not just coming into their own but a band that has what it takes to be something important.


King Crimson-Live in Toronto 2015



King Crimson is pretty much one of the definitive bands in the world of progressive rock as there isn’t really thing bad to say about them. In another series of live recordings the band is releasing in their DGM label is from a live show the band in Toronto in 2015. Led by the band’s founder in guitarist Robert Fripp, the line-up includes regular collaborators in bassist Tony Levin, drummer Pat Mastelotto, and saxophonist/flautist Mel Collins along with new members in drummers Gavin Harrison and Bill Rieflin and guitarist/vocalist Jakko Jakszyk. The material features an array of songs and instrumentals from many of the band’s near 50-year history as it very exciting as well as loud while it is really a live record fans of the band need to have.


Pet Shop Boys-Super



Pet Shop Boys are one of those acts from the 80s that should never be considered a nostalgic act as they’ve continued to put out music that is very vital and creative. The band’s thirteenth studio release does have the band not only flirt with current dance trends in the single The Pop Kids. Yet, it is in the middle of the album where tracks like The Dictator Decides, Pazzo!, Inner Sanctum, and Undertow showcase the duo of Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe at their strongest. Not only in terms of its production but also in how heavy it sounds. Though it’s a somewhat uneven album, it is one of the group’s worthwhile recording in a 30-year history that shows them still going strong.


Animal Collective-Painting With



Animal Collective are probably one of the great acts of the 2000s in terms of being out there and experimental. Yet, their tenth studio album is kind of a let down considering that there’s not a lot of material that stand out nor does it really have them do anything new. While the single FloriDada is a killer opening track, the rest of the album doesn’t hold up as it’s kind of a dud considering that there’s too much experimentation and not enough work in turning these ideas into songs.



Yeasayer-Amen & Goodbye



The band’s fourth release is once again a very adventurous and weird album as it’s a band creating something that is surreal and enthralling. Though it doesn’t have a lot consistency and can sometimes be weird for its own good. The album does at least have some songs that do stand out like Dead Seas Scroll, Gerson’s Whistle, and I Am Chemistry. Especially as there’s also album cuts that manage to help out with rest of the album despite some of the issues in its sequencing.


© thevoid99 2016

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Prince (1958-2016)



Prince Rogers Nelson aka Prince aka the Artist Formerly Known as Prince. What is there to say about him? The man was a genius. Not just as a songwriter, a producer, a performer, and a musician. He was a lot of things and more. The man was essentially it. In a decade that was defined by superstars and icons, it can be debated on who was the bigger star yet Prince was undoubtedly a man in his own world in terms of his showmanship and the fact that he could play like a motherfucker. Some said he was a bit like James Brown in terms of being a performer. Some said he was like Stevie Wonder for the fact that he could play so many instruments and be so gifted. Some said he was like Little Richard in terms of flamboyance and showmanship. Some said that he was a bit like Jimi Hendrix in terms of his skills as a guitarist. Yet, he’s all of those things but he is Prince.

For anyone born in the 1980s such as myself as there was always one or maybe more that people loved. Though for me as a kid, it depended on who I was into at the time in the age of MTV. Whether it was David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Van Halen, Talking Heads, the Clash, Bruce Springsteen, and the Cars. Prince was also part of that circle as songs like When Doves Cry, Let’s Go Crazy, Little Red Corvette, 1999, and Raspberry Beret were part of that soundtrack of songs I was listening to at age of three to five. Once I would grow up as so many things were happening and I was in elementary school, Prince was still around though the kids were more into hip-hop and hair metal but I still thought Prince was cool. Once I became a teenager and the music I was listening to and would become part of the soundtrack of my life were Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails, Pearl Jam, Metallica, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers but Prince was still around as he had songs I liked at the time like 7 and Cream.

I think once I got into my 20s where it was around the time where I had fully immersed myself into the music of Bowie and other older acts like the Beatles, Pink Floyd, New Order/Joy Division, the Clash, and several other acts along with NIN and Radiohead. Prince was someone I was also starting to re-discover but also go into deep into his work as I believe his work from Dirty Mind in 1980 to the original bootleg release of The Black Album in 1987 are his most defining work and a must for any fan of music. Though much of his output after that would have some great moments, they were also moments that were spotty as it’s hard to say if any of the albums he made after that were as good as classics like Dirty Mind, 1999, Purple Rain, and Sign “O” the Times. Albums like Controversy, Around the World in a Day, Parade, and The Black Album had other things to offer as it showed that Prince, like Bowie, wouldn’t be confined to one genre.

While it is obvious that Prince and Bowie are similar and probably were admirers to each other, for anyone that know that a couple of Prince’s songs like Cream and Peach are based on the work of Marc Bolan as it seems like Prince is more of a Bolan fan than of Bowie’s. This is just one of the aspects of Prince that is unique where he can do straight-up 70s glam but also do soul in a song like Money Don’t Matter 2 Night. There was no boundaries in the man while the persona he created was probably more eccentric than Bowie’s from his first appearance on American Bandstand where he didn’t say a word during his interview with Dick Clark to the time he opened for the Rolling Stones during their 1981 U.S. tour where he was wear black underwear, stiletto boots, ass-less chaps, and all sorts of crazy shit during the tour for Dirty Mind where he withstood the boos and catcalls he received.

During that time where I was learning more about him, I realized how way ahead of his time he was while also being very dangerous which is lacking severely in pop music. The line “am I black or white?/Am I straight or gay?” in the title track to Controversy was quite racy for its time while a song as catchy as Little Red Corvette was just as shocking with that line “she’s got a pocket full of Trojans, some of them used”. As a kid, I thought the song was about a car but once I grew up into my 20s and realized what it was about. I was like “Oh!” as I couldn’t believe that got played on the radio and MTV. Once the years went by where Prince’s eccentricities tended to sort of overwhelm the music. I had become a casual admirer of his work while accepting his eccentricities since geniuses are allowed to be eccentric. Still, that didn’t deter me from enjoying his music or his performances such as the one he gave at the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2004 where he basically gave one of the best guitar solos on the Beatles' While My Guitar Gently Weeps where he performed the song with Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne in celebration of George Harrison.


Then in February of 2007, he gave what I think is the definitive Super Bowl halftime show performance as he pretty much took every performer before and since to school. There’s great shows but Prince just goes all out in not just doing the hits but also a medley of covers and did something that can be defined as Godlike. Very few can do that. Freddie Mercury did that in Live Aid back in 1985. Prince did that in February 2007. There will never be the likes of that ever. Plus, for someone as serious as Prince is as it comes to his music. There was a man who also had a sense of humor.


One of my favorite thing that related to Prince is a skit from In Living Color which was an add for Prince’s butt-out jeans where Jamie Foxx is Prince and said some of the funniest shit that I have ever heard. It’s a skit that I constantly watch and it never gets old. Then of course, there’s the legendary Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Story on Prince on the Chappelle Show in which Dave Chappelle played Prince. It is a must-see as it all revolves around a basketball game between Charlie Murphy’s boys vs. Prince and his boys where it was shirts vs. blouses.


There’s a lot of songs of Prince that I’m sure many love aside from the hits. My favorite album is Sign “O” the Times as it is just nuts in terms of what he was able to do musically in different genres where it also had so much to say. It’s an album that belongs in that list of great double-albums such as The White Album, Exile on Main St., Quadrophenia, The Wall, London Calling, and The Fragile. It’s not just the songs on the album that are so special but the way it flows and talks about elements of spirituality, social issues, love, and other things that can be serious as well as humorous. The fact that he no longer exists nor will be doing any shows or make any albums is unthinkable. Especially as it just adds more sadness to a year that isn’t very good at all. I guess the only thing to say to Prince is thank you for the music and the memories.

R.I.P. Prince Rogers Nelson

© thevoid99 2016

Friday, April 8, 2016

Favorite Albums Friday #3: Rising



Favorite Albums Friday is a series of mini-essays weekly or bi-weekly that explores classic albums that made an impact on the world of popular music whether are albums famous to the public or albums that the world needs to hear.


Throughout the history of heavy metal, many often wonder when the genre had gone into its periods of decline as some said it was in the mid-1990s because of the emergence of grunge, alternative music, and hip-hop while the most popular consensus of the genre’s first decline was in the late 70s due to the emergence of punk rock in Britain while disco and corporate rock were considered contributing factors to the genre’s decline in America. Yet, there were still some important albums that came out of that period as one of the bands who would still continue to carry the flag of metal was Rainbow as their 1976 sophomore release Rising would be an album that showcased a more symphonic side to the genre.


While it’s a band that always had a constant line-up change for the bulk of its nine-year period from 1975 to 1984 with a reformation from 1993 to 1997. The one constant of that group was its founder and leader in guitarist Ritchie Blackmore. While he is largely famous for his work in the seminal hard rock band Deep Purple, Rainbow was formed just after Blackmore left the group over creative differences as he wanted to go into something more classical-based. Instead, the band in its Mach III line-up of Blackmore, keyboardist Jon Lord, drummer Ian Paice, and then-new members in bassist/vocalist Glenn Hughes, and vocalist David Coverdale were venturing into a more groove-based sound for the album Stormbringer. With Blackmore out of Deep Purple, he decided to form a new project with a band he had encounter earlier called Elf that featured a vocalist who would later become an icon in heavy metal in Ronnie James Dio.


The band’s first release entitled Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow wouldn’t just feature interpretations of songs by Steve Hammond and songs based on classical material. It would also feature elements of medieval fantasy courtesy of Dio as the band’s lyricist at the time yet the line-up for the band’s first album was brief as it would the first of many things that would happen for the band as the group’s first tour would consist of bassist Jimmy Bain, keyboardist Tony Carey, and drummer Cozy Powell. Powell was already famous for his work as a session drummer as well as playing with Jeff Beck in the early 70s as he would be the catalyst for what Blackmore wanted musically. Though the first album did modestly well in the U.S. and U.K. because of Blackmore’s name, it was a major hit throughout the rest of Europe where the idea of classical music fused with heavy metal was more accepted than in Britain and America.


The band’s acceptance in Europe would allow them to record their second album in Munich, West Germany at the Musicland studios with Martin Birch who had co-produced the band‘s first album with Blackmore and Dio. With their sophomore album, the band wouldn’t just create something that would push the boundaries of metal and hard rock to new heights but also provide something was also very challenging musically. At the same time, the production would be heavier and broader to capture the scope of the music while Dio’s lyrical approach would contain a sense of imagery filled with ideas of fantasy that relates more to medieval times as the six songs on the album contain a lot of that. Notably the ferocious opener Tarot Woman as it is this song full of power in terms of its blistering rhythm section led by pummeling fills from Cozy Powell’s drums, Jimmy Bain’s heavy bass, and Blackmore’s fierce guitar work. The track opens softly with Tony Carey’s swooning Moog synthesizer before it becomes this menacing song where Dio really shines vocally with his operatic growl.


For someone as small as Dio, the fact that can bring such a massive voice just adds a lot to his legendary status as he would also provide a lot of range in a mid-tempo song like Run with the Wolf that features these raunchy riffs from Blackmore’s guitar that includes a blues-based sliding solo that is supported by a bopping rhythm that include these amazing fills by Powell who is probably one of rock’s most underrated drummers outside of the world of metal. The upbeat cuts like Starstruck and Do You Close Your Eyes definitely plays into that world of fantasy in terms of what Dio is saying lyrically. The former is a blues-based song while the latter is more based in hard rock as both tracks feature amazing performances from Blackmore and Powell in their respective instruments. Another upbeat track in the album closer A Light in the Black definitely has the energy of punk but it’s more based on bits of blues-riffs and pummeling beats. Yet, it would also feature elements of classical in Blackmore’s guitar solo that do display a sense of virtuosity which was something punk wasn’t about at all.


The album’s centerpiece and often considered the band’s crowning achievement is the song Stargazer. Nearly eight-and-a-half minutes long, the song is not just a true definition of an epic song but it has so much to grasp on. Opening with these pummeling and blistering drum fills for a solo by Cozy Powell, it just adds to the musicianship of the song as Bain’s bass and Blackmore’s guitar hits with the latter coming up with these ferocious riffs that go wow, wow-wow-wow, wow, wow-wow-wow, wow, wow-wow-wow, wow, wow-wow. Dio’s vocals is the voice of an angel of metal where it has these ranges that can be calm to operatic as the lyrics he sings are cosmic in their imagery as they’re accompanied by Carey’s swooning synthesizers that sound very symphonic. That sense of orchestration and need to be symphonic would come into Blackmore’s solo that is probably his best solo as it sounds like a violin from outer space.


The album in its initial release on May 17, 1976 was quite daring considering that it was coming at a time when the music scene in Britain was about to change with the emergence of punk as many say the summer of 1976 was the Summer of Punk. Albums like Rising was considered a big no in Britain despite doing well in the U.K. album charts peaking at 6 while doing modestly well in the U.S. peaking at 48. While the band would focus largely with their growing audience in Europe, the line-up of Dio, Blackmore, Bain, Carey, and Powell wouldn’t last as Carey was fired as Blackmore felt his playing was too complicated while Bain was also fired for being seen as substandard in Blackmore’s view. The two would eventually be replaced by David Stone on keyboards and Bob Daisley on bass where they would help complete parts for the band’s third album Long Live Rock n’ Roll. Dio would leave the band after its tour where Blackmore wanted to go into a more commercial, AOR-oriented style.


In the years since the album’s release, it is often considered the band’s best work despite the many changes in line-up and musical styles the band would do. The 2011 deluxe edition of the album would feature not just the album in two different mixes in the mixing stages set in different studios in New York and Los Angeles but also a rough mix as its second disc that featured expanded versions of Stargazer. Unless one is an audiophile, the New York and LA mixes do sound the same but some of the songs have different time lengths while the rough mixes showcase what the band was trying to go for before the final mixes. Yet, the standout in that deluxe edition are the rough versions of Stargazer as one featured an extended keyboard intro by Tony Carey and another version is from a rehearsal as it is very rough but does maintain that sense of power in the song.


It’s been nearly 40 years since the album has been released as it’s also bittersweet as three of the members in the band have currently passed on as bassist Jimmy Bain just passed away in late January to lung cancer while vocalist Ronnie James Dio also succumbed to cancer in May of 2010 and drummer Cozy Powell died in April of 1998 in a car accident. Despite their passing, their contributions to music will live on as Rising still holds up in terms of its ambition and power while also being an album that rocks. It’s also the kind of album that gives hard rock and metal fans something more as some believe this album provides a template of sorts of the metal sub-genre power metal which is very popular in Europe. In the end, Rising is an album that is metal at its finest as it proves to be operatic, loud, and provide some escape thanks to the band that created it in Rainbow.

© thevoid99 2016

Thursday, March 31, 2016

What I'm Listening To: March 2016




As part of a new end-of-the-month series for this blog, I will do not just mini-reviews of new albums that I’ve heard in the following month but also profile songs that people should listen to as well as music videos to watch. With this blog now returning but in a new state where it’s just there every once in a while as I don’t have the desire to write full album reviews for the time being or maybe ever unless it’s for one particular artist or band like I did last month for David Bowie. For now, here is what I heard and such in the month of March 2016:

Album of the Month: Iggy Pop-Post Pop Depression



In his seventeenth and, maybe, final studio album of his near-5 decade period in music, Iggy Pop goes out with a bang in what is definitely an album that few of his age and stature would make. Produced by Joshua Homme of Queens of the Stone Age who plays in the record with Queens multi-instrumentalist Dean Fertita and Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders, the album sounds definitely recalls the work Pop did in the late 1970s with David Bowie as it has that sound of something that is machine like but with an edge that is just terrifying. Songs like Gardenia, Sunday, and In the Lobby showcase not just Pop’s mastery as a songwriter that can create catchy songs but also with a dark edge. Something that occurs in American Valhalla which is one of album’s standout cuts as is the closer Paraguay that is Pop at his most vicious proving that the Godfather of Punk isn’t going away quietly.


Song of the Month: Deftones-Prayers/Triangles


Though they’re often linked to the late 90s/early 2000 metal sub-genre of nu-metal, unlike many of their contemporaries like Korn. Deftones has managed to really create music that is always different with a sense of edge and creativity that really makes them one of the last unsung heroes of metal but also offer audiences something more in terms of melodies. From their upcoming eighth studio album entitled Gore, the leading single is a track that has a lot of layers in its sound from the melodic guitar textures and slow drumming in its verse. Then goes loud and pummeling in its chorus as Chino Moreno’s vocals is even more powerful while the production and sound itself is even more enthralling thanks in part to Stephen Carpenter’s guitar, Abe Cunningham’s drums, Frank Delgado’s ambient-based synthesizer, and Sergio Vega’s bass. This song is a sign that Deftones are back and metal is still alive and kicking.

Video of the Month: Bat for Lashes-In God’s House


From the upcoming fourth release by Natasha Khan’s Bat for Lashes moniker in a concept album The Bride is its leading single In God’s House. The video is truly one of the most gorgeously shot videos in recent years while saying a lot as it plays into a bride dealing with the loss of her groom. Shot in the desert, the video does have this sense of loss but also elements of surrealism in the fact that a car lights up from inside while Khan sings very somber lyrics of what had happened and how her character in the song is just falling apart.

Monthly Mini-Reviews:

Massive Attack-Ritual Spirit EP



It’s been a very long time since Massive Attack put something that has been worthwhile as their trio of 1990 albums in 1991’s Blue Lines, 1994’s Protection, and 1998’s Mezzanine are considered landmarks for the world of electronic music and defined the sound of trip-hop. After that, things have messy as albums such as 2003’s 100th Window and 2010’s Heligoland didn’t have the consistency of their previous albums nor material that is memorable. This 4-track EP however is actually the best thing they’ve done since Mezzanine as it doesn’t just feature the long-awaited return of trip-hop artist Tricky in their first collaboration since Protection in the song Take It There. The track is just one of the highlights as the rest of the record including the song Voodoo in My Blood features the group in their darkest and most dangerous as it is probably a glimpse of hope that the band could deliver once again with a great album as the video for that song starring Rosamund Pike is just phenomenal.


Primal Scream-Chaosmosis



2013’s More Light was a return to form for the British indie-rock group after a near-decade of albums that were messy or misguided as eleventh studio release sort of scales things back a bit while being more of an electronic-based album. Featuring contributions from Haim, Rachel Zeffira, and Sky Ferreira, the album does bear elements of past albums but in a more simplified presentation that also owes more to today’s electro-pop. Yet, the standout cuts in the single Where the Light Gets In with Sky Ferreira and the folk-based ballad in Private Wars with Rachel Zeffira are the big highlights. The rest of the album show that Primal Scream still has some juice left and can still provide music that is vital.


Savages-Adore Life



The second studio release from the post-punk band may not have that same air of thrill like its predecessor. Yet, this album proves that the band still has that ferocity and danger that made them so fucking good in the first place. The album does feature some more melodic elements than its predecessor in cuts like Slowing Down the World, When in Love, and the first single Adore. The rest of the album is about that energy and danger as it is the kind of record that audiences need in a sea of over-produced pop music that plays it safe.


Suede-Night Thoughts



One of the most influential and certainly one of the most important bands of the 1990s Brit-pop movement, Suede who reunited in 2010 and released their sixth studio album Bloodsport to great acclaim returns once again proving that they’re here to stick around. Their seventh studio release may recall some of the ambitious elements of the band’s 1994 album Dog Man Star in terms of its symphonic approach yet it still has that sense of rock bombast that the band is known for. There are also moments that are quite catchy and melodic as it’s an album from front to back that really has a lot of bite and flair for the dramatics that should put the band up there with the many great bands that defined British music.


Underworld-Barbara Barbara, We Face a Shining Future



For anyone that was listening to electronic music in the mid to late 1990s would know exactly who Underworld is as they were one of the groups in that period that defined not just rave culture but also electronic music at its finest. While the group has been keeping a low profile for much of the 2000s as they focused on film scores, they never stopped making albums. Their ninth studio release is the sound of an act that isn’t just feels revitalized but it sounds like a group that is moving forward while creating the kind of electronic music that means something. Not the kind of music that is made for radio and clubs but rather the kind of music that plays into the senses and the body while showing these young deejays with their laptops in how it’s supposed to be done.


© thevoid99 2016

Friday, March 25, 2016

Favorite Albums Friday #2: Where Darkness Doubles, Where Light Pours In




Favorite Albums Friday is a series of mini-essays weekly or bi-weekly that explores classic albums that made an impact on the world of popular music whether are albums famous to the public or albums that the world needs to hear.



For anyone who is devoted to a band or an artist, studio albums, compilations, or live albums is something they must have but for the hardcore fans. Official recordings are simply not enough as it shows that there is more to be heard as they often come in the form of the bootleg. From jam bands like the Grateful Dead and Phish to rock acts like Pearl Jam and Bob Dylan, the bootleg offers something a whole lot more for the hardcore fans. Whether it’s a concert they attended or rare recordings not heard from in an official capacity. In the case of an outfit like Nine Inch Nails, they don’t fall into any of those categories as their bootleg releases often tend showcase songs that aren’t just their hits but also fan favorites. Still, there is that devoted fan base that has followed the outfit for many years as several bootlegs have been collected and created for many years that only fans would know. Among them is a 2006 bootleg that originated from a series of radio sessions during the band’s summer tour of the U.S. with the legendary Goth band in Bauhaus who had reunited for this joint-tour with NIN.


While it is known by many fans that Bauhaus was a key influence to NIN while the band’s vocalist in Peter Murphy would tour with NIN back in 1990 just one year after the release of their debut album Pretty Hate Machine while Murphy was promoting his third studio album Deep that would feature one of the definitive songs of alternative rock in Cuts You Up. The tour was just a reunion of sorts between Murphy and NIN at a time when Bauhaus was thinking of more than just reforming as they would eventually make one more album in 2008’s Go Away White before disbanding again for good. NIN and Bauhaus would be joined by two different opening acts for the separate legs of their tour in the post-punk band TV on the Radio and the electro-punk artist Peaches. It was during this tour that NIN mastermind Trent Reznor and Murphy decided to do something that was to be a break from the monotony of touring. In these four different radio sessions would be the basis for one of NIN’s most cherished bootlegs that is widely known as Where Darkness Doubles, Where Light Pours In or sometimes known as The 2006 Trent Reznor/Peter Murphy Radio Sessions.


The 2006 tour was a high watermark for NIN as a year earlier, they had released With Teeth which was the band’s first album in six years as it would spawn three #1 modern rock hits in the songs The Hand That Feeds, Only, and Every Day is Exactly the Same. For Trent Reznor, it was a victorious moment as the years since the release of 1999’s The Fragile had been difficult due to that album’s disappointing commercial reaction as well as feeling abandoned by Interscope. All of which would lead to a relapse and a near-death experience in the summer of 2000 in London as the next several years saw not just a failed project in Tapeworm (which never got off the ground) as well as a bitter split with longtime manager John Malm Jr. which would also see the end of their vanity label Nothing Records. For those that had seen the band return in 2005 didn’t just see Reznor trying to readjust himself to a new musical climate but would eventually see the man be rejuvenated which is probably one of the reasons why he decided to collaborate with Peter Murphy for the series of radio sessions during their summer tour.


The first of these sessions were held backstage at the Lakewood Amphitheatre in Atlanta, Georgia on June 7, 2006 (a show that I was fortunate to attend and remains the best concert I ever went to as it was my first NIN show) for a radio session for the now-defunct modern rock radio station 99X. The performance features only Reznor and Murphy as the former sings and plays keyboards with the latter doing a lot of the vocals as the two would do reinterpretation of the NIN song Head Like a Hole into a slowed-down, electronic setting with Murphy doing much of the vocals and Reznor singing the vocals. In a full-on electronic take on Bauhaus’ Sanity Assassin that has Reznor and Murphy trade vocals with the former providing some drum-machine beats and this drone-based synthesizer. The last song of the session is a version of NIN’s Hurt that is given a simple presentation with Reznor playing piano and Murphy singing the song. Though Murphy doesn’t really do anything new vocally that Reznor as well as others like David Bowie and Johnny Cash has done to the song but does make it his own.


The second session was held in Washington, D.C. at the Nissan Pavilion on June 13, 2006 where it would be held to a small audience during a sound check where Reznor and Murphy decided to have the sessions for DC 101 with one of the opening acts on the tour in TV on the Radio. TV on the Radio were just about to release their breakthrough release in Return to Cookie Mountain during the tour as opening for NIN and Bauhaus was kind of the break they needed as their performance for this session also helped gain attention for them. By performing their song Dreams with Reznor and Murphy, the song is given some more power live with driving guitars of David Sitek and Kyp Malone as the latter sings the song with vocalist Tunde Adebimpe. Murphy joins them on the vocals while adding his own flair to the song. Reznor would later join in as it one of the best performances of the sessions.


The song, along with the two other tracks performed at the session, were filmed by NIN’s visual art director Rob Sheridan for its website as he would also film the band doing a cover of Pere Ubu’s Final Solution that Murphy covered in 1986 from his solo debut release Should the World Fail to Fall Apart as it is this menacing cover where Reznor, Murphy, and Adebimpe trade vocals for the song. A take on Bauhaus’ most famous song in Bela Lugosi’s Dead as TV on the Radio bring a very faithful take to the song with a few bits that is their own as Reznor, Adebimpe, and Murphy do a lot with the song.


For the third session set in Boston for a trio of simulcast radio broadcasts for WBCN, WFNX, and WAAF on June 23, 2006 backstage at the Tweeter Center (now Xfinity Center). Reznor and Murphy are joined by two NIN associates in Atticus Ross who provided drum-machines and keyboards for the performance and then-NIN guitarist/bassist Jeordie White who is known famously as Twiggy Ramirez from Marilyn Manson’s live band. Playing to an intimate audience with Reznor on bass/keyboards for the performance, the performance largely features a mix of material including a slowed-down version of the NIN song Reptile that is later mashed-up with a song by the band Love & Rockets (which was formed by the remaining members of Bauhaus) in Haunted When the Minutes Drag that maintains that slow, down-tempo form. Two covers would appear for this session in the form of Iggy Pop’s Nightclubbing that is quite faithful to the song with Murphy singing with some industrial-like beats to the song.


The other cover that is performed is from an electronic act called the Normal called Warm Leatherette which was made famous by Grace Jones. The performance itself is quite intense with Reznor and Ross providing these warbling electronics to the track with White’s noisy guitar textures to Murphy’s vocals. Yet, the highlight of the session is Murphy’s A Strange Kind of Love which Reznor states in the session that this was a song too good to pass up and he was right. It’s a simple acoustic ballad sung by Murphy with White on acoustic guitar as it showcases that even a simple ballad can just liven up a session without all of the bells and whistles.


The fourth and final session of series were recorded on July 1, 2006 in Chicago for Q101 radio at the First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre during sound check. This session would feature Murphy singing with NIN as a whole where they would nothing but covers of songs by Joy Division. The first of which in Dead Souls was a song NIN did back in 1994 for the film soundtrack to The Crow where they slowed the tempo down a bit as the rhythm section of White on bass and drummer Josh Freese add to that tone with Aaron North’s wailing guitars and a soft yet eerie keyboard from Alessandro Cortini. Murphy would sing the song while Reznor resigned himself to playing guitar in the song. Twenty Four Hours would have a sense of bite to the song though much of the arrangements of the song remains intact to its original with a more driving sound in its guitars and drums with Murphy providing some chilling vocals as he really makes the song his own.


The next two covers would be just as faithful such as the blistering take on the song Warsaw as NIN goes full-on heavy and fast for the song as it plays true to its sound with Murphy singing very fast and to the fuckin’ point. The last song in the session is probably one of the best covers of any band as the NIN/Peter Murphy version of Atmosphere is just something music fans need to hear. It is really faithful yet NIN provide something a little different in terms of Freese’s drum fills and the fact that the song is turned into a duet of sorts between Murphy and Reznor.


A planned fifth session which was to include Reznor singing along with Bauhaus didn’t come into fruition as it was speculated that growing tension within the band was the reason. The bootleg would instead feature two tracks from another NIN bootleg from a radio session in Chicago back in April 27, 2000 during the Fragility tour to promote The Fragile that is known as The CRC Sessions. The two tracks that appear for this bootleg include one of two takes of Hurt and The Day the World Went Away all performed in a semi-acoustic presentation that would later become the inspiration for the band’s 2002 Internet-only EP Still. Though their placement in the bootleg seems odd, it does help maintain that sense of flow and tone with the rest of the album.


Where Darkness Doubles, Where Light Pours In might not be in the same level as legendary bootlegs such as Bob Dylan and the Band’s The Great White North or anything that the Grateful Dead ever did live. For fans of Nine Inch Nails, the bootleg is definitely something that they cherish as it adds so much to not just the live experience. It also showcases that Trent Reznor is willing to do things differently and work with someone as legendary as Peter Murphy to shake things up and break away from the monotony of touring. While there’s other bootlegs of NIN that ranks very high depending on taste or a fondness for a certain period of the band. Where Darkness Doubles, Where Light Pours In is a bootleg that belongs with those NIN bootlegs where it also offers something much more towards its fans from the casual to the die-hard, hardcore fans.

© thevoid99 2016

Friday, March 11, 2016

Favorite Albums Friday #1: The Idiot & Lust for Life




Favorite Albums Friday is a series of mini-essays weekly or bi-weekly that explores classic albums that made an impact on the world of popular music whether are albums famous to the public or albums that the world needs to hear.



On March 18, 2016 will be the release of Post Pop Depression by punk legend Iggy Pop as it is rumored from the man himself that his seventeenth studio album might be his last. If that is true then the album at least showcases one of the most influential figures on rock music going out with a bang as it serves as a fitting finale to a career that saw many highs and lows with a lot of craziness that occurred along the way where he would also plant the seeds for a lot of music that was to come. To many, a lot of genres ranging from punk, post-punk, alternative, and indie wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for what Iggy has done from his work in the late 60s and early 70s with the proto-punk band the Stooges to his solo career. It is fitting that, with the upcoming release of Post Pop Depression, the man deserves some due into why he’s influential and why his first two solo albums in The Idiot and Lust for Life are so widely regarded by many as some of his best work outside of the Stooges.


When the Stooges broke up for a second time in 1974 following a period of notoriety but very little commercial success. Iggy Pop’s career wasn’t going anywhere as an album he made with Stooges guitarist James Williamson in 1975 called Kill City had languished until it was released two years later following the back-to-back releases of The Idiot and Lust for Life. During Pop’s time at a L.A. mental hospital where he was trying to kick his heroin addiction, one of the individuals who was David Bowie who had been a fan of the Stooges and did some remixing for the band’s seminal 1973 album Raw Power in an attempt to boost their lack of commercial viability. Bowie’s visits would get Pop out of the hospital where Pop would join Bowie on the road during the Isolar Tour to promote Bowie’s 1976 album Station to Station.


Among the first batch of material that would be written for The Idiot and later re-worked as Red Money for Bowie’s 1979 album Lodger is a song called Sister Midnight as it is this mixture of funk, art-rock, and the emergence of electronic-based music that was happening in Germany. Led by this funk-based riff by the song’s co-writer in guitarist Carlos Alomar, the song is this mid-tempo cut that include these bopping, funk-based rhythms that would later be overdubbed by Bowie’s rhythm section in bassist George Murray and drummer Dennis Davis. It’s a song that is filled with some weird yet playful lyrics as the song was first performed by Bowie during the Isolar tour of 1976 in a rough form as he would later perform the song again in his final tour in 2003/2004. Yet, it’s Iggy’s song all the way where he had these vocals that are off the wall as well as flairs that are just unique.


The song was the genesis of this collaboration between Pop and Bowie where they were aided by Bowie’s collaborators in Alomar, Davis, and Murray as well as Bowie’s producer Tony Visconti would do the final mix for The Idiot. It was made at a time when Bowie was making his own albums that would become Low and “Heroes” as those three albums along with Lust for Life were either partially-recorded or made entirely in Berlin at Hansa Studios. Though there has been some claims from fans of Pop, who prefer his more punk-based style, in believing that The Idiot was largely a Bowie album sung by Pop. That’s not really true as it is obvious that Pop did write a lot of the lyrics on the album while providing some of his own input into the music though if one were to compare it to some of Pop’s other solo albums like 1979’s New Values or 1993’s American Caesar. They would probably wonder if The Idiot was a genre exercise or something else but it does carry a sense of adventure that Pop probably wouldn’t have done with some of his solo work and actually showcased ideas that would plant the seeds for post-punk.


Among these songs that showcased Pop and Bowie’s flirtation with electronic textures and song structures that would be considered part of the template for post-punk are songs like Baby, Dum Dum Boys, and the album closer Mass Production. With Bowie serving as producer for the album as well as play lots of keyboards, synthesizers, and saxophone, the songs definitely have a sound and tone that isn’t punk but it’s not conventional rock either with Baby having Bowie playing synthesizers and piano as it is this mid-tempo tune with some very eerie lyrics and vocals from Pop who provides something that is dark in the song. Dum Dum Boys and Mass Production are these down-tempo tracks with the former being a more conventional rock song of sorts though it starts off with Pop talking about former friends and such including original Stooges bassist Dave Alexander who died in 1975 of alcoholism while playing to a piano. It’s a song that is just really eerie in the fact that it is a song about loss in the darkest ways where it sort of serves as a template for another genre that would come out of punk in Goth though in a very direct way.


The latter in Mass Production is a song that definitely owes a lot to the music of Kraftwerk from its opening sounds of warbling synthesizers as it is followed by these slow, thumping rhythms as it is a track led largely by its synthesizers which has this sound of imperfection as if it was still in childhood stage. The song has these very intense yet imagery-based lyrics that really is street as one of the things that makes Pop unique is that he is an artist of the streets in some respect as the Stooges were largely based in Detroit though Pop really comes from a trailer park in Ann Arbor, Michigan. That sense of street-smart would appear in a song like Funtime which is this up-tempo rock song with some dark lyrics and Pop in haunting vocal with Bowie singing back-up. It is has this mixture of out-of-tune, machine-like synthesizers and raw guitars where it a song that is kind of the closest thing to the Stooges on that album.


For anyone that wondered where a song like Closer by Nine Inch Nails comes from, it’s in Nightclubbing due to sound of those thumping drum machine beats as it is clearly a dark and dirty song because of those beats, fuzzy synthesizers, a jazz-like piano from Bowie. It has these lyrics that are odd but also intoxicating in its imagery where it also has Pop taking on different vocal ranges for its two different verses where it starts off having him sound like a lounge singer and then be in a more robotic-kind of vocal that just adds a lot more. Those beats from that song provide the basis for the beats in Closer which is probably why NIN mastermind Trent Reznor liked it so much that he would later cover the song for a radio performance with Bauhaus’ Peter Murphy, then-NIN guitarist Jeordie White, and longtime collaborator Atticus Ross.


Jazz is also heard in a ballad called Tiny Girls which is this smooth track with a bopping rhythm and Bowie on the saxophone as it sort of the anomaly of the album but it is this amazing song. Especially for Pop’s vocals and his playful lyrics while Bowie definitely shows his knack for the saxophone which doesn’t get a lot of credit. He’s not like a top jazz player or anything but has this approach to the sound as a saxophonist that is so intoxicating to listen to. Then there’s the one song that is probably the most famous song of the album but audiences more familiar with pop will probably have heard the song in a different form from one of its co-writers. That song is China Girl as it is this song that features these ominous yet intense lyrics as Bowie would recall in an episode of VH1 Storytellers in 1999 where he and Pop were in Berlin as it relates to what they had seen as they went back home and came up with ideas for what would be this song.


With Pop playing drums on the song as it has this thumping, mid-tempo rhythm that is followed by raw, driving guitars and Bowie’s swooning synthesizer melodies. It is a song that is quite dark in its presentation yet Pop’s vocals manage to be full of raw emotion in the lyrics he sings as it is probably one of his finest vocal performances. When that song came out in 1977, it never went anywhere until Bowie did his own version for Let’s Dance six years later and it became a worldwide hit that would provide Pop lots and lots of money for years since he did write the song with Bowie.


If The Idiot was this wild experiment into the world of electronics and art rock that set the tone for a lot of genres to come. Then its follow-up in Lust for Life is an entirely different ball game but like its predecessor, both albums are filled with a sense of adventure and experimentation. Yet, the album is more rock than electronics and art rock as well as providing some templates for the post-punk genre in one of the album’s most famous songs in The Passenger. Led by co-writer in guitarist Ricky Gardiner’s driving guitar riff and a steady walloping rhythm by bassist Tony Sales and drummer Hunt Sales, the song is filled with some haunting lyrics that include some of Pop’s chilling vocals. It’s a song that has a lot of imagery in its description which could also be served as a template for the genre of Goth as one of the genres premier bands in Siouxsie & the Banshees would later cover the song in 1987 for their all-covers album Through the Looking Glass.


The other song from the album that is also quite famous is its title track where it is a song that is just massive in its sound thanks in part to the production as the album was produced by Bowie, Pop, and Colin Thurston all in the alias as the Bewlay Brothers after a song from Bowie’s 1971 album Hunky Dory. The moment those bombastic drums films are heard, it is clear that this is really unlike anything as it is driven by Carlos Alomar’s playful guitar riffs and walloping rhythms while Pop sings these weird lyrics as it is filled with a sense of ambiguity but also a sense of celebration. One of the most legendary things that is heard about the song is that Pop and Bowie got the idea of the rhythm from a Morse code signal from the Armed Forces Network while they were waiting for Starsky and Hutch to air on TV. Yet, that rhythm and those drum sounds would be used in a million songs to follow for many years while the song would later get a new life nearly 20 years later due to its appearance in the 1996 Danny Boyle film Trainspotting.


Two songs in the album’s A-side in Sweet Sixteen and Some Weird Sin are full-on rockers that display Pop’s street edge as well as the fact that he still is the Godfather of Punk thanks in part to the musicians who were part of live band in early 1977 in Bowie, Gardiner, and the Sales Brothers. The former is just this primal, driving rocker with a nasty yet bopping rhythm with Pop just going all out with its confrontation lyrics and snarling vocals as it is raw to the fullest. The latter is a more of a mid-tempo piece that features some blazing guitar riffs and a solo from Gardiner as well as thumping, hard-hitting rhythm courtesy of Hunt Sale’s walloping drumming. Pop, accompanied by Bowie on backing vocals, sings in a very fast yet direct form as it play into lyrics that are weird but also to the point of sin as it is one of the album’s finest deep cuts.


Bowie’s involvement with this album would later have him use two songs from the album for his much-maligned 1984 album Tonight in the form of that album’s title track and the song Neighborhood Threat. The former starts off as this somber yet loud mid-tempo tune with Pop singing about loss about a young woman dying of a drug overdose. Then the tempo changes into something more upbeat with Pop displaying amazing vocals as he’s backed by Bowie’s backing vocals and a steady rhythm section while Ricky Gardiner provides this amazing solo. Though Bowie would cut out the intro for a smooth, reggae song in a duet format with Tina Turner, it is clear that Pop’s version is more superior though Bowie’s attempt to make the song more commercial in tune with what he was doing at the time. In the latter, the song is a straight-ahead rocker with wailing and melodic guitar textures, hammering beats, and Pop’s more street-edge vocals as it is more to the point as opposed to what Bowie was doing which was so indicative of 1980s production with its loud, gated drums and synthesizers that would sound very dated.


A mid-tempo rocker in Success is a song that has this driving rhythm in its guitars, bass, and drums as it is a song that is about the fantasy of success with Pop providing a sense of charm into the lyrics. It is one of the album’s finest cuts along with two other tracks in the album in the eerie ballad Turn Blue that Pop and Bowie wrote with Walter Lacey and longtime Bowie cohort Geoff MacCormack in his Warren Peace alias. It is this ballad that highlights Pop’s abilities as a vocalist where it a song full of regret and loss while he is accompanied by this slow yet hammering rhythm section as it is one of the album’s highlights. The album closer Fall in Love with Me which was written with Bowie and the Sales Brothers is a playful, mid-tempo cut where it is probably the only track to involve Brian Eno from an outsider’s view as he was Bowie’s collaborator in the two albums they made in 1977. Though Eno was probably not credited or was directly involved with any of the albums that Pop did. The fact that the song had Gardiner playing drums instead of guitar, Tony Sales on guitar instead of bass, and Hunt Sales on bass instead of drums is an idea that obviously comes from Eno’s Oblique Strategies tarot cards. Yet, it has this unique sound as it does play to something that is raw with Pop being funny in his vocals and lyrics.


Like Iggy’s work with the Stooges before him, The Idiot and Lust for Life weren’t commercial successes in the U.S. but did find an audience in the U.K. as the legacy of those two albums would help inspire the world of punk of what it could happen in life after punk. Though it would take more than a decade for Pop to have some commercial success in the U.S. where he would finally score a top 40 U.S. hit in 1991 with Candy from the album Brick by Brick. Pop has managed to secure a stature in the public eye as not just some punk legend but also an unlikely pop culture figure through his work on the Nickelodeon show The Adventures of Pete & Pete and films like Cry-Baby and Dead Man. The title track for Lust for Life would become a bigger hit in 1996 due to its appearance in Trainspotting as the song would be used in ads and such to the point where punk’s godfather was now rich and getting some overdue attention.


Having already been inducted into the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2010 as part of the Stooges and making a slew of albums that ranged from hard rock, punk, and in recent years, jazz music sung in French. It is amazing that of the artists from his era that were notorious for being dangerous, doing all sorts of drugs, and other crazy shit that makes the antics of today’s pop starts look tame. He is still alive for some reason which is also kind of sad considering that one of his compatriots in Lou Reed had died in 2013 and now that one of his champions in David Bowie had unexpectedly passed away this past January. It is surprising that Pop is probably the last man standing at this point which is probably why Post Pop Depression is definitely one of his best albums in his career.


Like Reed and Bowie, Pop still has the power to shock and do something that is dangerous which isn’t surprising into the kind of music that these men made. What is surprising that as Pop will turn 69 this April is that he is making music that is quite vital and dangerous where most artists in that age or older are either coasting on their past or just ease themselves into their comfort levels. By teaming up with Josh Homme and Dean Fertita of Queens of the Stone Age and Matt Helders of the Arctic Monkeys, the album definitely recalls the work of The Idiot and Lust for Life in spirit as it has a sense of darkness and energy that a lot of today’s pop music seems to lack. Especially in the world of rock which had become extremely polished as Post Pop Depression seems to be the right anecdote for rock.


If Post Pop Depression is to be Iggy Pop’s final album, it is a fitting way to go as it does complete the circle of music that he had began nearly 40 years ago in France and Germany with David Bowie on The Idiot and Lust for Life. Those two albums aren’t just classics in their own right but it also paved the way for so much to come. Even as it adds so much Pop’s legendary status regardless if they fit in with the rest of his body of work that include his legendary work with the Stooges. They’re albums that are dangerous, unsettling, and compromising but also manage to be a lot of fun and you can dance to it. In spirit, they’re both punk rock albums and who better to do that than the Godfather of Punk himself in Iggy Pop.

© thevoid99 2016