Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Cure-Bloodflowers

Throughout the band’s nearly 30-year career with changing line-ups and different musical styles to play up to their Gothic persona, the Cure had been one of the most enduring and popular acts from the world of alternative music through the 1980s and early 1990s. 1996’s Wild Mood Swings saw leader Robert Smith and the band take on an entirely different musical style that proved to be too much of a departure for longtime fans. With the response to the album lukewarm and another four-year gap between records happening, the Cure decided to return to more darker territory in tune with such classic albums like 1982’s Pornography and 1989’s Disintegration for their eleventh album entitled Bloodflowers.

Written and performed by the Cure and produced by Robert Smith and Paul Corkett, Bloodflowers is the band’s return to their dark, Gothic sound with heavy guitars, down-tempo rhythms, lush keyboards, and haunting lyrics. Considered to be the third part of a trilogy of albums that best defines the Cure, the record has a more ethereal yet simpler sound in comparison to the more lush Disintegration and the more nihilistic Pornography. The line-up that includes the same line-up from Wild Mood Swings, in longtime bassist Simon Gallup, guitarist Perry Bamonte, keyboardist Roger O’Donnell, and drummer Jason Cooper, allows the band to finally realize a fuller sound without the excessive ideas from that album. The result is a fascinating yet mesmerizing album from the Cure.

Opening the album is the somber, down-tempo Out of This World with Jason Cooper’s soft, walloping beats and Simon Gallup’s smooth, sturdy bass lines. With swirling electric and acoustic guitar flourishes from Robert Smith and Perry Bamonte along with Roger O’Donnell’s swooning keyboard, Smith sings the song’s nostalgic-laden lyrics to express the loss that Smith is feeling. The near 12-minute Watching Me Fall is led by heavy guitar wails, pummeling mid-tempo rhythms, and pulsating keyboard swirls. Featuring despaired lyrics that includes dark imagery, Smith sings the song as he’s surrounded by guitar solos and Cooper’s hard-hitting fills throughout the song. Where The Bird Always Sing is a throbbing mid-tempo track with ringing guitar arpeggios and driving acoustic washes and soothing synthesizers. Smith sings with calm vocals to the song’s dark lyrics filled with eerie description of a decayed world.

Maybe Someday is a slightly, up-tempo track with driving guitars and bass along with pulsating beats and wavy keyboards as it’s one of the album’s heavier tracks that is filled with soothing arpeggio melodies. The lyrics that are filled with fear and the reluctance to change includes some of Smith’s finest vocals in the way he expresses the lyrics vocally. The Last Day of Summer is a mid-tempo track with Gallup’s wobbly bass line, steady drum fills, soothing guitar arpeggios, and lush keyboards that help express the song’s melancholic tone through its lyrics. Smiths’ somber vocals help enhance the sadness as it serves as an appropriate song for summer’s end as fall arrives. There is No If… is an acoustic-driven ballad with soft, clanging electronic flourishes as Smith sings lyrics filled with longing and sorrow to express heartbreak. With some melodic piano and guitar arpeggios, it is one of the album’s highlights.

The Loudest Song is a soft, electronic-driven track led by smooth, thumping beats and swirling keyboards that meshes with melodic guitar chimes and driving riffs. Smith sings to the song’s melancholic lyrics filled with rich description as it’s mix of electronic and Goth makes it another of its standout cuts. 39 is a heavy, mid-tempo track with pulsating synthesizer melodies, pummeling drums fills, swirling guitars, and low bass lines. Featuring lyrics that describes the end of things with fire being its key word, Smith’s evocative vocals take charge to this haunting yet powerful song. The album closer is its title track that features Cooper’s walloping drum fills, swooning bass lines, and O’Donnell’s somber synthesizer waves. Smith sings the song’s haunting lyrics filled with images of death as he’s surrounded by layers of wailing guitar solos and arpeggio melodies as it serves as a fitting close to the album.

Released on Valentine’s Day 2000, the album was considered a return to form from the band as fans and critics praised the album though some speculated if it was the band’s final album. Particularly as Robert Smith said in interviews that he’s thinking of ending the band altogether as a tour followed to great acclaim. Yet, the album did mark the end for the Cure as it would be the band’s final studio release with their longtime label Fiction Records after a relationship that lasted for more than 20 years. A year later, the band released a greatest hits compilation that would officially mark the end of the band’s relationship with the label prompting more break-up rumors.

Bloodflowers is a remarkable yet intoxicating album from the Cure. While it may be the weakest of the three albums in the trilogy with Pornography and Disintegration. It is an album that is still one of their finest as it ranks somewhere with records like The Top, Seventeen Seconds, and Three Imaginary Boys that features some of their best work. Particularly as it has a production that works for these songs which was an improvement over the messiness of Wild Mood Swings. In the end, Bloodflowers is a superb yet evocative album from the Cure.

© thevoid99 2011

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Cure-Galore: The Singles 1987-1997

1997’s Galore: The Singles 1987-1997 is the Cure’s second full-length best-of compilation that preceded 1986’s Standing on a Beach/Staring at the Sea compilation that focused on the singles from 1979 to 1985. In Galore, the compilation focuses on the singles the Cure released from 1987’s Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me to 1996’s Wild Mood Swings plus a brand new song written by the band’s leader Robert Smith entitled Wrong Number specifically made for the compilation. The result is a fantastic yet thrilling best-of album from the Cure.

The first four tracks are from 1987’s Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me that had the band delving into their own style of Goth-pop as it’s one of their most accessible albums. Kicking the album off is the song Why Can’t I Be You? with its upbeat, new-wave style led by spurting guitars, bopping dance beats, and wailing synthesizers to play up Robert Smith’s wailing vocals. The ballad Catch with its soft yet hypnotic tone led by a soothing string and Porl Thompson’s arpeggio-laden guitar is one of the band’s key ballads. The upbeat love song Just Like Heaven is among one of the record’s highlights with its swooning synthesizers, flourishing guitars, and Smith’s evocative vocals. The single mix of Hot Hot Hot!!! with its swanky guitars, thumping rhythms, driving string arrangements, and Smith’s snarling vocals.

The next four tracks come from the band’s 1989 masterpiece Disintegration that harkens back to the band’s more darker sound of the early 1980s with a much broader sound in terms of guitar and keyboard textures. The ballad Lullaby kicks things off from that record with its slow, steady rhythm that is followed by plucking strings, fluid synthesizer swoons, and Smith’s whispering vocals to the song’s nightmarish lyrics. The single mix for Fascination Street with Simon Gallup’s intense bass playing, swirling guitars, pummeling beats and decaying lyrics provides one of the band’s key moments. Lovesong, which is the band’s biggest hit, is a soothing, mid-tempo track with heart wrenching lyrics about love that includes a soothing keyboard track. Pictures of You with its flourishing guitar arpeggios, somber keyboards, thumping rhythms, and Smith’s despaired vocals is another of the band’s highlights making it one of their key singles.

The next two tracks come from the 1990 remix album Mixed Up that includes a single mix of the hard-rocking Never Enough with its charging guitars, pummeling beats, and Smith’s angry lyrics as he sings with a great snarl. Next is an edited version of the Close to Me (Closest Mix) with a slower rhythm, soothing keyboards, and more horns in the track to play up its original, jazzy style. The next three tracks come from the band’s 1992 album Wish as the band balances the darkness of Disintegration with more simpler, pop elements that starts off with the single High with its arpeggio guitar and six-string bass melodies, bopping rhythms, and Smith’s evocative vocals. Friday I’m In Love with its melodic pianos, mid-tempo rhythms, driving guitars, and quirky lyrics is among one of the band’s most popular singles. The ballad A Letter to Elise with Smith’s despaired vocals, down-tempo rhythms, and clanging keyboard melodies is another of the band’s big hits proving they still can put out the ballads.

The next four tracks are from the 1996 album Wild Mood Swings where the band takes on a stylistic departure that includes the mariachi-laden The 13th that includes a swooning brass section, slow Latin rhythms, and Smith’s eccentric vocals. Mint Car, which is one of the band’s most underrated singles, is a song that has Smith singing very happy lyrics to its playful, upbeat style with melodic guitars and bopping beats. The mid-tempo dance of Strange Attraction with its clanging beats, sitar flourishes, and hypnotic dance rhythms is one of the band’s strangest tracks filled with weird lyrics. Gone! is another mid-tempo track that features a wailing brass section as well as slower rhythm along with Roger O’Donnell’s flourishing keyboards and Smith’s wailing vocals. The last track on the compilation is the new song Wrong Number that includes Jason Cooper’s pulsating beats with driving bass and guitars and flourishing keyboards that is followed by the charging guitars of Reeves Gabrels as Smith sings dark, humorous lyrics with his snarling vocals.

Released on October 28, 1997, the album was considered to be a great sequel to 1986’s Staring at the Sea/Standing on a Beach due to the hits it provided while Wrong Number was a hit in the U.S. Modern Rock charts. The album was also released with video collection for VHS at the time as it helped maintain the Cure’s popularity following the disappointing reaction towards Wild Mood Swings.

Galore is a superb best-of album from the Cure that features many of the band’s great singles from their most commercial period from 1987 to 1997. The compilation does serve as a great introduction to new fans while it’s best that it’s paired up with the 1986 album Standing on a Beach to get a more comprehensive collection of the Cure. Yet, the 2001 Greatest Hits collection does provide both periods though doesn’t feature as many singles that fans love. In the end, Galore is a thrilling compilation from the Cure.

© thevoid99 2011

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Cure-Wild Mood Swings

Following the worldwide success of 1992’s Wish that was followed by a massively successful world tour, the Cure seems to be riding high proving they could stay relevant with the world of alternative music. During the European leg of the tour, longtime bassist Simon Gallup had to leave the group temporarily for health reasons as Shellyann Orphan bassist Roberto Soave took over for the remaining shows. After the tour, guitarist Porl Thompson left the group to become part of Robert Plant’s live band while drummer Boris Williams left in 1994 to pursue other ventures leaving singer/guitarist Robert Smith and guitarist Perry Bamonte to keep the band going.

The period between 1992 and 1996 would be the first of a four-year gap between albums for the band as Smith was also dealing with a lawsuit from former Cure member Lol Tolhurst over royalties and the band’s name. Smith eventually won his battle against Tolhurst while Gallup eventually returned to the fold after his recovery. With Smith asking former keyboardist Roger O’Donnell, from the Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me and Disintegration period, to rejoin the band, the band were also seeking new drummers during the recording as Jason Cooper eventually filled in the role for the band’s tenth studio release entitled Wild Mood Swings.

Produced by Robert Smith and Steve Lyon, Wild Mood Swings is an album where the Cure stray away from the dark sounds of Disintegration and Wish for a more guitar-heavy sound with lush keyboards and upbeat pop songs. With many of the lyrical elements that Smith provides to be a mixture of moods and themes, the album has the Cure taking on different sounds. Despite the risks to change their sound a bit and take on different ideas, the result would be the Cure’s weakest album of their career.

Opening the album is the mid-tempo, guitar-driven Want with its slow, pummeling beats from Jason Cooper with swirling guitars from Perry Bamonte and Robert Smith. With Roger O’Donnell’s shimmering keyboard melodies and Simon Gallup’s throbbing bass, Smith wails through the song that includes lyrics of desperation with some lush keyboard swirls. Club America is an upbeat track with heavy guitar wails, pummeling beats from Louis Pavlou, and Smith singing in a low vocal style to the song’s humorous style. Despite its performance, the production tends to do too much for the guitars but not enough for the bass and keyboards. This Is A Lie is a ballad led by lush string arrangements and washy acoustic guitars along with a soft percussions from Ronald Austin as Smith sings the song’s morose yet exotic lyrics.

The album’s first single The 13th is an upbeat, mariachi-style track with throbbing percussions, washy acoustic guitars, exotic piano melodies, and a swooning brass section. Featuring Smith’s whimsical vocal style to match the song’s esoteric yet abstract lyrics about a weird girl as it’s one of the band’s weirdest songs. Strange Attraction is an upbeat yet mid-tempo song with hypnotic dance rhythms, clanging keyboards, and twangy sitar melodies as it features lyrics about a strange relationship with a delightful Smith singing the song. Mint Car is another upbeat track with spurting guitar chimes, bopping rhythms from Gallup and drummer Mark Price plus Smith’s excited vocals. The song’s lyrics recall a happier tone to what Smith is singing though it later has a sense of darkness proving its complexity as one of the band’s most underrated singles.

Jupiter Crash is a throbbing, down-tempo track with washy guitars and slow, walloping beats with a somber keyboard. Smith sings to the song’s dreamy yet melancholic lyrics as it’s a good song despite the emphasis to be extremely atmospheric in the production. Round & Round & Round is an upbeat song with washy guitars, bopping rhythms, and Smith’s yelping vocals filled with somber though abstract lyrics. Gone! is a mid-tempo track with a thumping brass section, steady beats and O’Donnell’s melodic keyboard spurts as Smith sings strange, imagery-laden lyrics filled with dark humor as it’s another of the Cure’s underrated songs. Numb is another acoustic-driven ballad with washy guitars, down-tempo rhythms, and soft keyboards that all follow Smith as he sings the song’s despaired lyrics of a man losing himself.

Return is an upbeat track with bopping rhythms, flourishing keyboards, driving guitars, and wailing brass as Smith sings in a delighted tone to the song’s complex lyrics filled with happy and sad moments. Trap is an upbeat rocker with wailing guitars, low bass lines, and pummeling beats from Mark Price as Smith snarls through the song to its angry yet melancholic lyrics. Treasure is a ballad led by soothing strings, Price’s soft beats, Gallup’s somber bass, soft guitars, and O’Donnell’s lush keyboards. Smith sings quietly to the song’s lyrics filled with longing desperation. The album closer is the near eight-minute ballad Bare with its soothing acoustic guitar washes, wobbly bass lines, steady drum fills, and flourishing keyboards. Smith sings the song’s melancholic lyrics filled with themes of fragility that is accompanied by lush strings to help close the album.

Released on May 6, 1996, nearly four years after the release of Wish, the album received mixed to lukewarm reviews from fans and critics over the stylistic departure the band took. Though it would sell a million copies worldwide, it was considered a major disappointment following the sales for Wish four years earlier. Despite the tepid response to the album, the Cure still managed to remain a popular touring act as they played all over the world including South America for the first time to a great reaction.

Despite some good performances and a few great songs, Wild Mood Swings is a decent but extremely inconsistent album from the Cure. It’s a record that is hampered by a lack of a cohesive direction along with some bad production that often drowns out the bass and keyboards in favor of heavy guitars and drums. Among the many studio albums the Cure has released, this is their most lackluster as there’s not a lot of memorable material as some of it seems to be a rehash of things while the lyrics aren’t as engaging as some of the highlights in this record. In the end, Wild Mood Swings is a record that has some moments but definitely the weakest recording the Cure has made in their career.

© thevoid99 2011

Friday, August 26, 2011

Radiohead-In Rainbows

Originally Written and Posted at on 4/14/08.

When Radiohead emerged in 1993 with their debut album Pablo Honey, the Oxford quintet of singer/guitarist/keyboardist Thom Yorke, guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Jonny Greenwood, bassist/keyboardist Colin Greenwood, guitarist/sampler/background vocalist Ed O'Brien, and drummer/percussionist Phil Selway scored a huge hit with the song Creep. Though immediately tagged as one-hit wonders, the band in the next four years would emerge as a forced to be reckoned with. With help from producer Nigel Godrich, 1995's The Bends and 1997's OK Computer put Radiohead into a pedestal where some have called them the best band in the world. After a world tour and a documentary, Radiohead went on hiatus as they re-emerged with 2000's experimental album Kid A. Its sequel Amnesiac was released a year later as one of Britain's most beloved bands went unconventional despite a loyal following.

When the band returned in 2003 with Hail to the Thief that also followed a tour, the band took a much-needed break as they spent their time working on side-projects while individual members were also raising family. During this break, Thom Yorke worked on a solo release called The Eraser while Jonny Greenwood worked on score music for the film The Body that would eventually gain the attention of American film auteur Paul Thomas Anderson who asked Greenwood to do a film score for his 2007 masterpiece There Will Be Blood. During this time off period, Radiohead's contract with EMI was expiring though the band would owe the label a best-of compilation. Yet, many wondered when the band would work on a new album and for what label. Then in the fall of 2007, Radiohead returned with a bang with their seventh full-length album entitled In Rainbows.

Produced by longtime collaborator and "sixth member of Radiohead" Nigel Godrich, In Rainbows marks a return of sorts to the band's melodic, guitar-driven style of their mid-90s classic albums like The Bends and OK Computer. With dabbles of experimentation from previous albums like Kid A, Amnesiac, and Hail to the Thief, the album is more personal than in previous releases. With Thom Yorke providing more mature lyrics about adulthood, alienation, and madness, the album is the band taking their melodic-driven sound further than in previous albums. The result isn't just Radiohead making another masterpiece but a testament into proving why they're so beloved by millions of music fans.

The album opens with the distorted drum-machine driven 15 Steps that features a unique rhythm as Thom Yorke sings along to it with his strange yet eerie lyrics. With Phil Selway following with his frenetic drums, the rest of the band follows with Colin Greenwood's low bass line and the melodic pluckings of Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, and Ed O'Brien. The song flows through to both its melodic, rhythmic presentation along with scratchy textures courtesy of Jonny Greenwood's arrangements and noise devices along with O'Brien's scratchy guitar. Bodysnatchers is a fuzz-driven, upbeat rocker that has the band going into full rock mode with triple-guitar attacks from Yorke, Greenwood, and O'Brien along with a frenetic yet bouncy rhythm from Colin Greenwood's bass line and Selway's drums. With Jonny Greenwood belting out warbling riffs, Yorke sings through his chaotic lyrics of madness and rage. It's the band going into full rock mode with O’Brien bringing a brief solo in the end.

The second single Nude is a swooning yet ethereal ballad with hypnotic synthesizers and the wandering background vocals of Yorke and O'Brien. With Colin Greenwood providing a soft, bouncy bass line to Selway's smooth drums, Yorke sings the song's descriptive yet bleak lyrics as his vocals shine through the song. With plucked riffs by Yorke, and O'Brien being played with Jonny doing other instruments, it's truly a haunting ballad that shows Radiohead at their finest as pop songwriters. Weird Fishes/Arpeggi opens with a swift snare beat and hi-hat cymbal from Selway as O'Brien and Jonny Greenwood play arpeggio guitar riffs to maintain its rich presentation. With Colin Greenwood's soft bass accompaniment, Yorke sings the song with his smooth yet haunting vocals to the song's strange yet imagery-laden lyrics as the song intensifies through its rich, layered guitar work and swift rhythms.

All I Need is a bass-heavy number with droning bass synthesizers and hollow bass work by Colin Greenwood and a mid-tempo beat by Selway as Yorke sings the song with his haunting delivery that includes lyrics of desperation that features the band delving into more accessible, lyrical territory. With Jonny Greenwood providing accompaniment with xylophones and O'Brien providing guitar noises, it's a wonderfully dreamy yet eerie song that intensifies with Yorke's striking piano coda. Faust Arp is an eerie, acoustic-driven song with wonderful guitar melodies and layers of vocals with Yorke singing abstract lyrics of chaos as he's accompanied by Jonny Greenwood's rich string arrangements.

Reckoner is a wonderful, percussive-driven track led by Selway's brilliant drum work and cymbal crashes as Yorke plays a melodic rhythm with his guitar that's followed by Colin Greenwood's bass. Featuring Yorke's soft, falsetto vocal as he sings despairing lyrics that is followed by Jonny Greenwood's keyboard, the song's rhythm intensifies a bit that includes wonderful layering of triple-guitars by Yorke, O'Brien, and Jonny Greenwood. House Of Cards is a rare love song from Radiohead as it features a wonderful guitar melody performed by Yorke as he's accompanied by a smooth rhythm from Selway's drums and Colin Greenwood's bass. Along with bass-beating drum machines in the background and O'Brien's guitar accompaniment, Yorke sings profound yet sad lyrics that is heightened more by Yorke's amazing vocals, even in the chorus that includes a siren-like guitar riff by Jonny Greenwood.

The album's first single Jigsaw Falling Into Place opens with a swift, arpeggio acoustic guitar melody by Yorke that is later followed by a swifter yet upbeat rhythm from Selway's drums and Colin Greenwood's bass. With Yorke singing in a hollow-like register through the song's chaotic-driven lyrics. With O'Brien and Jonny Greenwood providing guitar accompaniment, the song intensifies through Yorke's vocals. The album's closer Videotape is a strikingly, haunting piano ballad that has Yorke singing about death as Colin Greenwood's bass accompanies him on the same melody. Featuring a sputtering-like beat in the background and later, cymbal taps by Selway, the song's eerie tone starts to intensify in tone as its background starts to fade.

The album's bonus disc that appears as part of a box set version of the album only available on Radiohead's website includes eight additional tracks. The first is Mk 1 which is essentially a one-minute track continuing the same piano melody of Videotape playing softly in the background with warbling noises and layers of vocals. Down Is The New Up is a wonderfully rhythmic, piano-driven track that has Yorke striking the piano in melody that is followed by Selway's drums and Colin Greenwood's bass. Yorke sings through the song's dark lyrical with its frenetic rhythms and soft, pluck-wash guitars of O'Brien and Jonny Greenwood as it later intensifies in its arrangement that includes string accompaniment by Jonny Greenwood. Go Slowly is a melodic-driven track led by a pluck-laden guitar style and shimmering synthesizer background as Yorke sings through his haunting vocals through the song's eerie lyrics. With Jonny Greenwood providing a soft, xylophone background, Yorke pounds through his washy acoustic guitar as he sings through an array of vocals.

The 53-second Mk 2 is a shimmering yet siren-like instrumental led by the Martonet by Jonny Greenwood that playing like a theremin track. Last Flowers is a slow yet chilling piano ballad that has Yorke singing through his descriptive yet snarling lyrics as he is later accompanied by his own acoustic guitar as he continues to provide profound lyrics through his amazing vocals. Up On The Ladder starts off with a thumping electronic-bass beat that is followed by warbling guitar tracks by O'Brien and Yorke as Jonny Greenwood plays a shimmering keyboard accompaniment. With Yorke singing snarling lyrics as he's later accompanied by cackling beats in the background as the song starts to intensify.

Bangers & Mash is a fast, rocking song with warbling guitar riffs and frenetic beats by Phil Selway and Colin Greenwood's pounding bass lines as O'Brien and Jonny Greenwood strike their guitars. With Yorke singing and playing along, he gets into an attack mode with his vocal and lyrics as the band just goes for the juggler as it features scratchy, droning guitars and swift beats as the band prove they can rock with the rest. The final track and album closer 4 Minute Warning starts off with fuzzy drones that warbles through the background as tambourine accompaniment arrives along with Yorke's vocals and distorted guitar washes. With Yorke singing through his descriptive lyrics as he plays the piano, the song's eerie yet plaintive tone is a fitting closer to the entire album.

With a lot of credit going to longtime producer and collaborator Nigel Godrich, the album is wonderfully produced thanks to Godrich's sparse layering of tracks, guitars, and electronics as the result is truly crisp and consistent. While the history of the recording this album had been troublesome as the band tried to experiment with ideas including working with another producer with Mark "Spike" Stent, that produced little results. It's clear that Radiohead and Nigel Godrich are made for each other as some said, if it wasn't for Godrich, Radiohead would've still been a one-hit wonder band. Yet, if it wasn't for Radiohead, Godrich wouldn't have gotten the chance to work with the likes of Beck and Sir Paul McCartney. The album itself is truly marveling in which the band found themselves going back to their melodic-pop sensibilities while balancing their aching for experimentalism.

To compare an album like In Rainbows to the albums they've made prior is hard to say. Each album going back to Pablo Honey each have a distinct sound and presentation. Along the way after each album, there have been bands that have tried to sound like Radiohead in their various phases whether it's a rock band like Muse or as pop-friendly as Coldplay. Yet, what In Rainbows says for the band is that when it comes to a band like Radiohead, there is no one that will truly sound like them in any way. Like the Beatles, the Who, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, R.E.M., U2, Joy Division, and the Pixies before them. Just take some melody, riff, a vocal note, or anything, once it's heard. It's clear that the band the listener is hearing is Radiohead. What makes this band is great is the way they play their music, the musicianship between them, the comradery, how they approach writing, playing, and such. This is why people often call Radiohead, the best band in the world and In Rainbows itself is a huge statement.

Fans who have been following Radiohead for many years will no doubt consider In Rainbows a masterpiece. Whether they like the anthemic-rock of The Bends, the art-rock of OK Computer, the double experimentalism of Kid A & Amnesiac, and the adventurism of Hail to the Thief. In Rainbows has it all where it while it leans towards the edge of the cliff, it also has something is very accessible to mainstream audiences. Whereas most bands try to make themselves relevant to the masses by working with top producers or catch the latest trend. Radiohead stick to their guns and become relevant without being told by the record companies or what the public wants. Instead, Radiohead make another defining statement as In Rainbows proves that they're not just going to stay forever but also do it on their own terms.

Radiohead Reviews: Studio Albums: (Pablo Honey) - (The Bends) - (OK Computer) - (Kid A) - (Amnesiac) - (Hail to the Thief) - (The King of Limbs)

EPs: (Drill) - (Itch) - (My Iron Lung) - (No Surprises/Running from Demons) - (Airbag/How Am I Driving) - (COM LAG (2plus2isfive)

Live Recordings: I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings)

Compilations: (The Best of Radiohead)

(C) thevoid99 2011

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Cure-Paris

Paris is the second of two live albums the Cure released in the fall of 1993 chronicling the band’s tour for their 1992 album Wish. Unlike its predecessor Show which focused largely on that album plus various hit songs, this record focuses more on the band’s earlier records plus rare album cuts as the band plays the song live at Le Zenith de Paris on October of 1992. The result is a much more fascinating yet exhilarating live album from the Cure.

Opening the album is the down-tempo yet brooding The Figurehead, from Pornography, that features a slow, rumbling drum fill from Boris Williams along with Simon Gallup’s driving bass line. Featuring swooning, arpeggio-laden guitars from Robert Smith, Porl Thompson, and Perry Bamonte, Smith sings the song’s morose lyrics of despair for a calm yet fiery performance from the band. One Hundred Years with its blaring guitars, pummeling rhythms, and somber keyboards take charge as Smith sings the song’ nihilistic lyrics as it’s one of the album’s highlights. At Night, from Seventeen Seconds, is a mid-tempo song that includes a droning guitar drive with steady beats and an ominous synthesizer to help maintain the dark tone of the entire show with Smith singing the song’s haunting lyrics.

Play for Today is a more up-tempo track that is led by sputtering beats and Simon Gallup’s wobbly bass line that is followed by washy guitars and a soothing synthesizer lines that the crowd sings to as Smith snarls through the song with his vocals. Apart is an eerie ballad with a slow, throbbing rhythm, flourishing guitar arpeggios, smooth synthesizers, and Smith’s calm vocals. In Your House is a mid-tempo track with a bopping rhythm, ringing guitar melodies, and soft synthesizers to play up the song’s melancholia. Lovesong, from Disintegration, is among one of the highlights with great cheers from the audience as the mid-tempo love song with its calm, mid-tempo rhythm and presentation is among one of the highlights of the record.

Catch, from Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, is led by Bamonte’s swooning synthesizers and Williams’s soft, cadence-like drumming as Smith sings the heartwarming ballad with driving guitars and quiet bass lines. A Letter to Elise arrives as the mid-tempo ballad filled with swirling guitar flourishes and throbbing rhythms while Smith sings the song’s longing lyrics. Dressing Up, from The Top, is among one of the album’s big surprises with its flowing keyboard chimes, sturdy bass lines, and Smith’s wailing vocals as it’s greeted with cheers from fans. Charlotte Sometimes is another song that is played to great fanfare as it is carried by a swooning synthesizer and a slightly, more up-tempo rhythm to the song as Smith sings the somber song. Closing the live album is the poppy Close to Me with Gallup’s bumping bass line, Williams’ steady drum, spurting guitars, and soft synthesizers while Smith sings the song to great enthusiasm.

Released on October 26, 1993, a week after the release of Show, the album also had a special notice that half of the proceeds from the record would go to the Red Cross charity. With some fans preferring this album over Show, it was a record that indicated the Cure’s popularity worldwide proving that they were still viable in the era of grunge rock in the U.S. and Brit-Pop’s arrival in the U.K.

Paris is a superb live album from the Cure that offer fans something more than just hits. With Show, it makes a great companion piece as both albums provide something hardcore fans of the Cure will enjoy. Of the live albums the band has released, this record is among the best due to its emphasis on obscurities rather than hits. In the end, Paris is an excellent live document from the Cure.

© thevoid99 2011

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Cure-Show

Show is the first of two live albums from the Cure chronicling their 1992 tour for the album Wish. Recorded at the Palace of Auburn Hills near Detroit, Michigan, the live album (in differing versions) has the band play many songs from the album Wish along with other classic songs from their career. Produced by Robert Smith and mixed by Smith and Bryan “Chuck” New, the live album is among one of the better documents of the Cure as a live act.

Opening the album is a track called Tape which is essentially an intro track that meshes swirling guitars and keyboards with Smith’s vocals that segues to the song Open. Led by Simon Gallup’s melodic bass line and Boris Williams’ pummeling beats, the blaring guitars of Porl Thompson, Perry Bamonte, and Robert Smith takes charge as he sings to the song’s dark lyrics. High, with its heartwarming lyrics, is among one of the key performances of the album with its arpeggio-laden guitars and six-string bass playing from Smith and Bamonte. Pictures of You, from Disintegration, is given a dazzling performance for its mid-tempo presentation filled with broad keyboard textures and Smith’s vocals being a highlight of the performance.

Lullaby, from that same album, features screams from the fans once Bamonte’s swooning synthesizer appears for the upbeat, mid-tempo song with its creepy lyrics as Smith sings in a direct vocal style. Just Like Heaven is another highlight early in the album as it’s one of the Cure’s most popular song with its swift, driving guitar chimes and rumbling beats with Smith singing the song with pure joy. Fascination Street, an additional track on the two-disc version of the album, is led by Gallup’s pummeling bass line and Thompson’s swirling guitar to kick off one of the most haunting cuts in the album. A Night Like This, from The Head on the Door, is given a more upbeat drive to the song with Williams’ pounding beats and blaring guitars that take charge including a guitar solo in place of the saxophone solo from the original recording.

The ballad Trust that is led by a somber piano track to complement the song’s despaired tone as it includes a wonderfully fluid yet evocative synthesizer track. Kicking the second half of the album is Doing the Unstuck where it starts off as an acoustic solo by Smith only for the band to follow in an exciting yet soaring performance with wailing guitars and powerful rhythms. The next two cuts are bonus tracks from the two-disc version of the live album in the pulsating, new wave track The Walk and the more poppy, synthesizer-driven Let’s Go to Bed as they’re both greeted with excited fanfare. Particularly as the songs are given a fuller sound with a full band to add more punch to the songs.

Friday I’m In Love is another song that’s gotten great fanfare as it’s one of the more upbeat songs on the album with its driving guitars and inspired performances with its bopping rhythm. Inbetween Days, from The Head on the Door, is another upbeat performance that includes Bamonte’s soaring synthesizer taking charge to the song’s evocative lyrics as Smith sings with great delight. From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea is another highlight with its blaring guitars, driving rhythm, and Smith’s snarling vocals as it would become a fan favorite in live shows. The hard-rocking Never Enough arrives with its hammering beats and charging guitars as Smith sings in a fast, angry vocal style. Cut with its crashing rhythms, wobbly bass, and swirling guitars help maintain the heaviness as Smith sings with his wailing vocals. Closing the live album is End with its down-tempo yet ominous presentation with droning guitars and rumbling rhythms as Smith sings to close the show.

Released on October 19, 1993, the album was released in three different versions. With the two-disc and cassette version featuring a standard track listing, the single-disc version excluded Fascination Street, The Walk, and Let’s Go to Bed as they would appear in the Sideshow EP while the single disc also shortened the intro to mesh with Open as one track. Another version of the record that featured five bonus cuts was a CD-i version that was a precursor to the DVD that was a rarity. Even as it included cuts like To Wish Impossible Things, Primary, Boys Don’t Cry, Why Can’t I Be You, and A Forest.

Show is an excellent live album that provides a great live document of the Cure outside of bootlegs. In comparison to previous live albums the band has released, it’s one of the better ones though Paris is more superior due to the rarities it offers. It’s a record that is a decent introduction for new fans interested in what the band sounds like live though it is something that hardcore fans will enjoy. In the end, Show is a dazzling yet exciting live album from the Cure.

© thevoid99 2011

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Cure-Wish

1989’s Disintegration helped the band reach their peak both creatively and commercially as they had become one of the world’s most popular bands. Despite the success, the band’s leader Robert Smith was overwhelmed by it with some believing that the band was to break up. Instead, keyboardist Roger O’Donnell left the band in May of 1990 as he was replaced by technician Perry Bamonte who played on the band’s single Never Enough for the 1990 remix album Mixed Up. While the Cure managed to do a handful of appearances including a taping of MTV’s Unplugged in 1991, Smith was hit with a lawsuit from former co-founder Lol Tolhurst over royalty payments and ownership of the band’s name as the suit dragged on for three years. Smith chose to focus on making another album with the Cure that was entitled Wish.

Produced by Robert Smith and David M. Allen with songs written and performed by the Cure. Wish is an album where Robert Smith and company take the heaviness of Disintegration to a less doom-laden approach for something more accessible and pop-driven. The band line-up that includes guitarist Porl Thompson, guitarist/keyboardist Perry Bamonte, bassist Simon Gallup, and drummer Boris Williams. The record features a balance of two different emotions ranging from happy to melancholic as the result is a wonderfully rich and exciting album from the Cure.

The opening track entitled Open is a mid-tempo song with swirling, heavy guitar riffs, droning bass lines, and pummeling drum fills as Robert Smith takes charge to the song’s despairing lyrics with his calm vocals. The song is rich with its layered production to capture the mesh of arpeggio-laden and swooning guitars that is played by Smith, Porl Thompson, and Perry Bamonte. The album’s leading single High is an upbeat song led by Thompson’s ringing guitar melodies and Boris Williams’ steady yet walloping beats as it’s followed by Simon Gallup’s driving bass and Bamonte’s washy six-string bass. Smith sings in a wailing vocal style to the song’s heartfelt yet evocative lyrics that is among one of the band’s best songs. Apart is a downbeat ballad that is led by swooning bass and guitar melodies, a chilling rhythm, and a soft yet flowing synthesizer. Smith sings quietly to the song’s lyrics chronicling a break-up with its dark yet ethereal imagery.

From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea is a near-eight minute track led by a sprawling production filled with flourishing keyboards, blaring guitars, pounding beats, and driving bass lines as it’s one of the heavier songs the band has done. With Smith singing some extremely haunting yet somber lyrics, it is among one of the Cure’s key tracks. Wendy Time is an upbeat song with bopping rhythms and funky guitar riffs that is followed by soft keyboards to exemplify the song’s tone. With Smith singing in a playful manner, the lyrics recall someone trying to help out at their own risk as it’s a very dark though humorous song. Doing the Unstuck starts out as an acoustic ballad filled with lyrics of letting go as Smith is then followed by blaring guitars and driving, upbeat rhythms. With its crisp yet hypnotic production, it’s a song that is a wonderful mix of melancholia and hope making it one of its standout cuts.

The single Friday I’m In Love is an upbeat love song with flourishing guitars and driving rhythms that includes melodic-swirling keyboards as Smith sings in a happy persona. With its lyrics describing days of the week with elements of sadness, the song is still a very happy one due to its quirkiness. Trust is a somber, piano-driven ballad led by fluid yet wailing synthesizers that is followed by slow, downbeat rhythms and quiet guitar flourishes. Smith sings in a calm yet haunting vocal style to the song’s despaired lyrics filled with heartbreak. The single A Letter to Elise is a throbbing, mid-tempo ballad with steady rhythms, bopping xylophone melodies, and washy guitars. With Smith’s somber vocals channeling the song’s lyrics of heartache, it is among one of the Cure’s best singles.

Cut is a fast, heavy rocker led by pummeling and crashing rhythms along with wailing guitar swirls that drives the song. With Smith’s snarling vocals playing up to its angry lyrics, it is a song that is wonderfully carried by its atmospheric yet crisp production. To Wish Impossible Things is a ballad that features a soothing viola from Kate Wilkinson that plays along with arpeggio-laden guitars and soft, throbbing rhythms. Featuring reflective yet ethereal lyrics, Smith sings quietly to maintain the song’s theme of longing in what is truly a superb ballad. The album closer End is led by snarling guitar riffs and pounding, upbeat rhythms as Smith sings with his calm, wailing vocals. Featuring dark yet chilling lyrics, it’s a fitting song to end the album with Smith wanting things to end.

Released on April 21, 1992, the album debuted at number one in the U.K. album charts and number two in the U.S. album charts as it solidified the Cure’s status as hit-makers as the single Friday I’m In Love was a top 20 hit in the U.S. Though reviews were mixed for the album, it was popular with fans for the Cure who helped sustain their popularity in the wake of grunge and alternative rock. With a very successful tour that yielded two live albums in Show and Paris in 1993, the Cure seemed to be still on top. After the tour, the band would embark on a four-year gap between studio albums as line-up changes occurred along with Simon Gallup’s brief departure during the European leg of the tour due to health issues. What would happen next would have the Cure questioning their future.

Wish is a remarkable yet eclectic album from the Cure that provides something for everyone. While it may not reach the heights of darker masterpieces like Faith, Pornography, and Disintegration, it is a record that is among one of the Cure’s best as it fits in with more pop-driven albums like The Head on the Door and Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me. It’s also an album that has a bit of a balance for people that want something a bit happier but also retain some of the dark elements that fans of the Cure love. In the end, Wish is an excellent album from the Cure.

© thevoid99 2011

Monday, August 15, 2011

Beach House-Teen Dream

Originally Written and Posted at on 1/15/10.

2008's Devotion help raise much attention for the Baltimore dream-pop duo known as Beach House. The duo featuring vocalist/organ player Victoria Legrand and guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Alex Scally were riding high on a wave of critical acclaim from indie rock critics as well as artists on the scene. While on break, Legrand contributed vocals to the song Two Weeks by the Brooklyn-based indie band Grizzly Bear as it helped raise her own profile. Another vocal contribution for the band for the Twilight: New Moon soundtrack helped maintain the buzz for Beach House as they signed to a new deal in the famed Sub Pop indie label for their third album Teen Dream.

Produced by Chris Coady, Teen Dream is an album that expands Beach House's sound to new atmospheric textures. With songs written by Victoria Legrand and featuring Alex Scally's haunting musical arrangements and instrumentation. The album takes the duo's dream-pop sounds filled with elements of country and indie to a new stratosphere. The result is one of the first new great albums to kick off a brand new decade.

Opening the album is the melodic swirl of Zebra that is led by Alex Scally's arpeggio-laden guitar track. Featuring Victoria Legrand's evocative vocals with cosmic, psychedelic-driven lyrics filled with weird imagery. The song is a hypnotic, rich track that includes a soothing synthesizer accompaniment and later, bopping percussion shakes with a tapping beat. Silver Soul is an ethereal track led by swooning guitar slides and Legrand's soaring organ that is accompanied by a slow, thumping drum track. Legrand's dreamy yet hollow vocals take charge with lyrics filled with mesmerizing images as it is a track that is enriched with Chris Coady's superb production.

Norway is an electronic-inspired track driven by a wailing keyboard track that is followed by melodic guitar flourishes and a pounding bass drum. With Legrand's vocals filled with a haunting tone to play up to the song's cryptic, dark lyrics, it is a superb song that works in its presentation and broad production filled with Scally's amazing instrumentation. Walk In The Park is led by a mid-tempo, pulsating drum machine track that is followed by a wavy organ track and Scally's arpeggio-laden guitar. Legrand's evocative vocals lead the way with its dreamy lyrics that includes a wailing keyboard track in the song's chorus. Used To Be, a single that came out in 2008, is a mid-tempo track with a slow, thumping beat and a melodic piano track as Legrand sings calmly with double-tracked vocals in this playful yet ethereal track. Scally's spurt-ringing guitar track with a momentum-building drum track is one of the best cuts of the album as it is certainly filled with top-notch production.

Lover Of Mine is led by a bopping, drum machine track that is followed by a melodic keyboard swirl that is mimicked by Scally's ringing guitar. Legrand's vocals take charge with its enchanting yet imagery-filled lyrics filled with sterling imagery and Coady's layered yet atmospheric production in what is another standout cut for the album. Better Times is led by a striking, mid-tempo piano track that is followed by a dreamy, fuzzy synthesizer track as Legrand sings the song with her wailing yet hollow vocals. Featuring somber lyrics of nostalgia, the song's rich arrangements coupled with its sparse yet ethereal production shows the band taking their sound to new heights. 10 Mile Stereo opens with a thumping bass drum and Scally's swirling, arpeggio-laden guitar flourishes. Legrand's hollow yet calm vocals features haunting yet melancholic lyrics that soars through with Scally's wailing guitar and the song's tempo picking up a bit in its dramatic form.

Real Love is led by tingling of metal objects with a haunting piano accompaniment as Legrand sings with her haunting yet dramatic vocal presentation. Featuring somber yet morose lyrics, the song is a rich piano ballad that is filled with amazing vocal harmonies from Legrand in its double-tracked mix with Scally's driving guitar wail in the background. The album closer Take Care opens with an eerie but enchanting harpsichord-like keyboard track with swirling guitar riffs and a tapping drum beat. Legrand's soaring vocals is filled with haunting yet desperate lyrics of longing as is supported by Scally's broad arrangements and Coady's broad production as it serves as a fitting close to the album.

Teen Dream is a brilliant yet hypnotic album from Beach House that includes some amazing production work by Chris Coady. Fans of the band will definitely be amazed by the band's new progression as it is clearly their best and most accessible work to date. For those new to Beach House and heard about them through Victoria Legrand's work with Grizzly Bear will definitely be amazed enough to hear the rest of their work. In the end, Teen Dream is a magnificent yet evocative album from Beach House that starts 2010 with a bang.

Beach House Albums: Beach House - Devotion

(C) thevoid99 2011

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Beach House-Devotion

Originally Written and Posted at on 1/9/10.

When Beach House released their self-titled debut in the fall of 2006, the Baltimore duo captured the attention of the underground along with critics in the indie music scene. The duo, that includes vocalist/organ player Victoria Legrand and guitarist/keyboardist Alex Scally, also toured in support of the album where it raised more attention as in early 2008, the band released their sophomore album that broadened their dream-pop sound entitled Devotion. Devotion is an album where the band takes their sound to darker, ethereal heights. With all the songs written by Victoria Legrand with the exception of one which is a cover of a Daniel Johnston song. The album is a chilling yet spellbinding record that puts Beach House into a new stratosphere.

The album opener Wedding Bell is led by a soft, sweeping sound of percussions with a slow, thumping bass drum with melodic guitar swirls that accompanies Victoria Legrand's hollow, dream-like vocals. Featuring esoteric lyrics and a droning guitar solo, it's an enchanting song with wails of hypnotic keyboard chimes. You Came To Me is a haunting ballad led by Scally's melodic keyboard chimes with water-drop rhythmic beats that accompanies Legrand's ethereal vocals singing chilling lyrics. With bass-pounding drums emerging with Legrand's vocals presented with multi-track backing vocals, it's a rich yet hypnotic track. Gila is a slow, mid-tempo track with a thumping beat and Scally's rich, arpeggio-laden guitar as Legrand sings the song with her eerie yet ethereal vocals. The song's lyrics is filled with lush imagery in this mesmerizing song that includes Legrand playing a soothing organ track.

Turtle Island is a haunting track led by a chilling, pounding beat with a swooning organ track accompanying Legrand's dreamy yet evocative vocals. Featuring some mystical lyrics, the song's arrangements is filled by chime-like keyboards and soothing bass lines that would later be followed by ringing guitar spurts and Legrand's wailing vocals. Holy Dances is led by arpeggio guitar chimes with a smooth, tapping rhythm with slow tambourine hits as Legrand sings with her hollow yet hypnotic vocals. Featuring some esoteric lyrics and the song's tempo picking up a bit, the song's richness is heightened by its layered, atmospheric production. All The Years is led by swirling sounds of keyboard chimes with swooning guitar slides and a wailing organ track. Legrand's vocals take charge with some nostalgic yet imagery-laden lyrics that is heightened by its somber yet blazing production on the keyboards.

Heart Of Chambers is a slow, mid-tempo track with thumping beats and twangy, chime-like guitar riffs as Legrand's vocals lead the way as it features some cryptic yet haunting lyrics. With Legrand's vocals intensifying a bit, so does Scally's performance on the guitar. Next is a cover of Daniel Johnston's Some Things Last A Long Time that was co-written with Jad Fair. Featuring a smooth, thumping bass line and melodic guitar arpeggios with hollow, pounding beats. Legrand sings the song's childlike lyrics with her chilling yet soaring vocals as it is followed by swirling keyboard chimes. Astronaut is an atmospheric track with soft beats and swirling keyboards with a melodic synthesizer track accompanying the instrumentation. Legrand's dreamy vocals take charge with its spacey lyrics that includes a droning, twangy guitar solo as it maintains its calm yet ethereal tone.

DARLING opens with soft, wailing keyboards and chime-like, arpeggio-laden guitars as Legrand sings with her hollow yet dream-like vocals. Featuring some chilling yet cryptic lyrics, the song is led by Legrand's vocals and Scally's evocative, layered arrangements of guitars and synthesizers as it maintains its haunting tone. The album closer Home Again is a mid-tempo track with thumping beats and shaking percussions with a swooning organ track as Legrand sings calmly with its esoteric lyrics and subtle arrangements.

Devotion is a mesmerizing yet stunning album from Beach House. Fans of the first album will no doubt be amazed by the broader sound the band created along with its production. It is also one of the more overlooked albums to come out in 2008 as their upcoming third album is widely anticipated thanks to Victoria Legrand's vocal contributions to a couple of songs for the indie band Grizzly Bear. For anyone looking for some great dream-pop, Beach House's Devotion is the record to get.

Beach House Albums: Beach House - Teen Dream

(C) thevoid99 2011

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Beach House-S/T

Originally Written and Posted at on 1/7/10.

Formed in 2004, Beach House is a Baltimore dream-pop duo featuring vocalist/organist Victoria Legrand and guitarist/keyboardist Alex Scally. While Victoria is the niece of famed French musical composer Michel Jean Legrand and famed French vocalist Christiane Legrand of the Swingle Sisters. Beach House is influenced by acts like Big Star, the Zombies, and Brian Wilson among others. In 2006, the band released their self-titled debut through Carpark Records. With songs written by Victoria Legrand, the album is an evocative, dream-like record that features Scally's hypnotic arrangements dreamy guitar pop and subtle electronic sounds mixed in with Legrand's ethereal, chilling vocals. The result is a fascinating debut album from Beach House.

The album opener Saltwater is led by soft, mid-tempo beats with shimmering guitar tracks with bass-droning organ flourishes. Along with chime-like keyboards, Victoria Legrand sings with her ethereal, low-pitch vocals with esoteric lyrics filled with melancholia as the instruments swoon through the entire song. Tokyo Witch is a chilling, mid-tempo track with soft, pounding bass beats with shaking percussions. With Legrand's dreamy vocals and haunting lyrics, the song includes a sliding guitar sound that is followed by a melodic guitar flourish and a brief synthesizer track. Apple Orchard is a somber yet atmospheric track led by synthesizer-heavy swoons and soft, drum machine tracks as Legrand sings in her nocturnal yet evocative vocals. Featuring some imagery-laden lyrics and slithery guitar slides, the song is a highlight thanks in part to Legrand's amazing vocal range and Alex Scally's arrangements.

Master Of None is an upbeat song of sorts with pounding beats and swirling keyboard tracks as Legrand sings the song with her hollow yet engaging vocals filled with dark, eerie lyrics. Featuring Scally's dreamy guitar slides, the song revels in its dark lyrical tone mixed in with hypnotic arrangements as Legrand's vocals are the highlight. Auburn And Ivory is a chilling yet hypnotic track led by a heavy, harpsichord-like keyboard riff and slow yet steady beats. Legrand's eerie vocals filled with cryptic lyrics laden with dark imagery shows the band taking on dark sounds that includes Scally's arrangements of eerie slides and mesmerizing keyboard tracks that is followed by a smooth, wailing organ. Childhood is an upbeat track of sorts led by a melodic organ track and thumping tambourine hits as Legrand sings calmly with its mesmerizing, imagery-laden lyrics. With Scally's arrangements of soothing guitar slides and arpeggio-laden keyboard flourishes, it's definitely the album's richest cut.

Lovelier Girl is led by a swirling, chime-like keyboard track with soft, thumping beats and a bass-droning organ track as Legrand sings in her hollow, low-pitch vocals. With Scally's arpeggio-laden guitar riffs and subtle electronic arrangements, it's a song that is rich in its presentation while paying true to the dream-pop sub genre. House On The Hill is led by hollow, metallic percussion beats with Scally's melodic guitar track. The song includes wailing keyboard flourishes to accompany Legrand's somber vocals with its descriptive, haunting lyrics as it surrounded by its flourishing keyboard chimes. The album closer is the seven-minute, fifty-second Heart And Lungs which is led by soft, clock-like beats that thump through along with swooning keyboard chimes. Legrand's vocals take charge with her dreamy, nocturnal vocals filled with dream-like lyrics as its subtle presentation and Legrand's vocals make this as a superb closer for the album.

Beach House's self-titled debut is a hypnotic, mesmerizing album from the Baltimore duo. While it may have a few consistency issues in the middle of the album along with several down-tempo tracks that might not please some listeners. It's a record that fans of the dream-pop sub genre will enjoy in its richness, Alex Scally's arrangements, and Victoria Legrand's vocals. Beach House's self-titled debut is a stellar album from one of the current rising act of indie rock.

Beach House Albums: Devotion - Teen Dream

(C) thevoid99 2011

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Ride-Going Blank Again

Originally Written and Posted at on 9/8/08.

Following the critical success of 1990's full-length debut release Nowhere, Ride was already riding a wave of critical acclaim as the shoegaze genre was in full-bloom with bands like Lush, Chapterhouse, and Slowdive releasing records that blended noise-pop and dream-pop. Then in November 1991, My Bloody Valentine raised the bar for the genre and pop music all together with Loveless which many claims to be the definitive album of the genre. Ride meanwhile, after releasing the Today Forever EP in March 1991 collaborated with My Bloody Valentine's engineer Alan Moulder, who had also been collaborating with another shoegaze act, Curve. In the fall of 1991, Ride and Alan Moulder collaborated on the band’s second release entitled Going Blank Again.

Produced by Alan Moulder with songs each written by their singers/guitarists Mark Gardener and Andy Bell. Going Blank Again is an album that takes Ride’s dream-like shoegaze sound of Nowhere with broader production and noisier palettes that pays tribute to the burgeoning grunge music scene in America. With the thunderous rhythm section of bassist Steve Queralt and drummer Laurence Colbert, the album pushes the band's sound to new limits as they also go for ambitious song structures and noises. Though lacks the richness and dream-like angst of Nowhere, Going Blank Again is still an excellent release from Ride.

The album opener is the eight-minute, eighteen second opus Leave Them All Behind with its wobbly bass line, mid-tempo rhythms, and warbling guitar shimmers as a blazing solo emerges. Mark Gardener leads the way in singing the song with its hazy lyrics as he's joined by Andy Bell on vocals. With its smooth, driving rhythm and blazing guitar noises, it's definitely a great opener for the entire album. The single Twisterella is a bouncy, upbeat song with thumping rhythms and washy guitar arpeggios as Mark Gardener sings with his smooth, cool vocal style as Bell joins him in the chorus. With ringing chimes and percussions, it's a wonderful pop song with ringing guitar melodies and dream-like lyrics led by Gardener. Not Fazed is a more rocking song with driving guitar riffs and a smooth, upbeat rhythm as Andy Bell leads the way with his more evocative, dream-like vocal style. Joined by Gardener on vocals, it's a more rocking track with arpeggio riffs and washy guitars.

Chrome Waves is an acoustic-led track filled with mid-tempo, thumping rhythms and dreamy, evocative synthesizers in the background. With Bell singing in a haunting vocal style and Gardener singing in the background, it's an excellent track led by Alan Moulder's crisp, wall-to-wall production. Mouse Trap is an upbeat song led by a washy guitar riff before going into a thumping, driving rhythm led by Steve Queralt's low-sounding yet bouncy bass line. With its blazing guitar washes and rollicking rhythm, Bell and Gardener sing the song's dream-like lyrics after two-minutes of playing only to play once again. It's a good song but not a great one. Time Of Her Time is another upbeat song with blazing guitars and rollicking beats as Andy Bell sings the song with his hazy lyrics and dream-like vocals. With warbling guitar solos and washy riffs, it's another song that's good but falls short a bit.

Cool Your Boots is a six-minute, mid-tempo, guitar-blazing song that features some great production work from Alan Moulder and Bell's evocative vocals. With its driving guitar and smooth, thundering beats, it's an excellent song filled with a soft, synthesizer background that does get a bit long during its instrumental coda. Making Judy Smile is a mid-tempo yet bouncy rocker led by thumping rhythms, a melodic bass line, and washy guitars led by Bell's smooth vocals. With ringing guitar melodies flourishing, it's a wonderful little pop with its flourishes showing they can create unique songs. Time Machine starts off with a one-minute intro of wobbly bass and drums until it becomes a full-sounding track with a more driving tempo, swift guitar washes, and acoustic guitar plucks. Mark Gardener sings the song through his evocative vocals with Bell joining him in this slow yet melodic song that isn't very memorable.

The album closer OX4 is a seven-minute epic filled with slow yet warbling guitar chimes as it turns into a full-on sound with noisy guitar background, arpeggio chimes, and a thumping rhythm. With Gardener singing lead with Bell in the background, the song goes into a simple, mid-tempo track with guitar washes and shimmering synthesizers layered by Alan Moulder's crisp production. The track is definitely one of the band's career highlights. In the 2001 remastered version of the album comes four additional tracks including the album's title track from the Twisterella single. The mid-tempo yet melodic, arpeggio-chime driven track is one of the band's simpler songs with the harmonic vocals of Gardener and Bell as they lead the way for this chiming, dream-like song.

The next two bonus tracks also come from the Twisterella single. First is Howard Hughes, a rich ballad with washy, dream-like acoustic and electric guitars followed by a wobbly bass line and Mark Gardener's soothing vocals. With layers of shimmering and arpeggio guitars, it's one of the band's richest B-sides. Stampede is a mid-tempo song with arpeggio and blazing guitars with rollicking beats and slow bass lines as Andy Bell sings the song with his dream-like wail as it features a shimmering chorus led by its guitar. The final bonus track from the Leave Them All Behind single is the near, eleven-minute instrumental epic Grasshopper. The track starts off as an instrumental jam with thundering beats, wobbly bass lines, and layers of guitar ranging from blazing to rich arpeggios. With guitars blazing and making noises, it's one of the band's great highlights in this jam-like instrumental piece.

Upon its release in March 1992, the album achieved critical acclaim as well as a degree of commercial success. Yet, the band was unable to break through into the U.S. while the shoegaze musical scene was going into a huge decline. A year later, plans for a third album were in delay due to tension between Mark Gardener and Andy Bell. In 1994, the band released Carnival of Light to mixed reviews as the album signified a change in sound with psychedelia that also had dashes of the current Brit-pop music scene. Two years later, the band released their final album Tarantula to poor reviews a year after the band had called it quits. Today, Ride remains one of the most celebrated bands of the shoegaze scene with Andy Bell being the most-profiled as he currently plays bass for the popular British band Oasis.

Going Blank Again is an excellent album from Ride. Though doesn't reach the heights of their debut album Nowhere. Fans of the band and of the genre will no doubt consider this one of the band’s finest despite a few moments that don't live up to expectations. Yet, it's the kind of record that shows that a band like Ride can and could overcome the sophomore slump. In the end, Going Blank Again is an album worthy to listen to from one of Britain's overlooked acts.

Ride Albums: Nowhere - Smile - (Carnival of Light) - (Tarantula) - (OX4: The Best of Ride)

(C) thevoid99 2011