Silage – Vegas Car Chasers

My life hurts right now, my broken tooth is starting to feel like a broken tooth, my little vacation away from my normal job is ending tomorrow, and a friend I’m very fond of disappeared completely without a trace, possibly due to alien abduction. For this reason, and this reason alone, it is time to talk about Silage and their final album, Vegas Car Chasers:

I have never figured out exactly what that tiny picture next to Silage is, and I've seen this CD in person!

Indeed, short-lived Christian Rock band Silage only ever put out two albums, one of which I have already talked about. The interesting thing about these two albums is that they are extremely different from each other, all the way down to the lineup. On Watusi, the singing was done by one dude, on Vegas Car Chasers, he switches places with the lead guitarist, who takes the helm on a fair share of the song’s killer tracks.

The sound, overall, went from being an interesting take on pop-punk infused with some goofy rap and junior high level trombone playing to a more refined, pop-tastic, alternative rock sound that occasionally harkens to a more glitzy set of tones and attitudes, hence the “Vegas” in Vegas Car Chasers. Their drummer called it quits, so the circus-beat pop punk drums are no longer present, and have been replaced by a fairly normal drummer who gets put through the ringer of effects quite often.

So, enter the new and soon-to-be-doomed Silage. Their album opens up with something different in the form of a track called “Original”. First, an explosion of music as everything comes in at once with no warning, most prominent of which is the guitar, still a Fender Stratocaster, still sounding pretty. The one E chord (played suspended in every bar for good measure) is accompanied by some strange vocals samples and squeaky DJ scratching. Oh no, you may be thinking, and right you would be, but this is the late 90’s, it was all over the pop radio anyway.

The vocals are performed by none other than Damian Horne, the dude who sang all of Watusi, and is done in his usual goof-rap fashion. The words have gotten a bit wiser, as the whole thing is making fun of the conventions of having to come up with an “original sound” in order to make it, “gotta break through with the break-through new sound”. It’s a strange song, but this is a strange album, and it only gets better.

“Yo Tengo” is a little bit in the same vein as “Original” but is more odd and non-sequitor in the lyrics, a bit more guitar heavy, and features a different lead singer! I’ll leave you to interpret the lyrics:

Yo tengo una amiga
Who’s jazz is super-stereophonic
Let it crescendo
A million ears are all bionic
Silver, enticing
Elastic stretching everlasting
Moonlight the icing
I’ve never seen so much white frosting

Well obviously it’s about being in love with a girl, so I guess it’s not so abstract.

Ahh, “Billboards”, the “hit” of the album as I understand. This song is pure class as far as instruments go, the guitars are riffy, the drums are on time as always, and the rhythmic singing is enchanting. The song is about the superficial aspect of the church, and I know we’ve all had our doubts about that, right? Right.

Next up is “Why Sure”, which is a song I may have stolen a melody from in my bygone days of songwriting, but don’t tell anyone! Mum’s the word!  Either way, if unsuccessful musicians are biting your style, it means it’s a good thing yes? Yes. This song is fairly good, a little reminiscent of “Yo Tengo” but in all good ways, and then it bleeds straight into “Verb”, and this is the part of the album where the listener must either endure or become quick on the skip button.

See, “Verb” isn’t a bad song, so much, but there has always been a stigma associated with Christian Music trying to do hip-hop. I blame dc Talk on the whole, but a lot of the rap, while functionally all right, is kind of lacking in that whole danger or coolness element that they tote around so successfully. Indeed, one may consider the rap segment of this song by Christian hip-hop artist Knowdaverbs to be good on the whole, but for me, it’s hard to listen to Christians rapping, so I often skip this one. That could also be because the next song is my favorite.

That’s right, “Credit Card”, not only is it a well-built pop song set in a guitar-heavy minor key, but it’s about something I can deeply relate to, and that is credit card debt. The song is great though, even if your credit is perfect, and stands as my most recommendable Silage song. Dig it.

“Walks And Strolls” is kind of a weird one. It starts with a kind of delicate major 7th chord and lyrically follows this idea that, “more than anything”, the singer either wants a girl who “Walks and strolls, and strolls and walks”, or a band who “Rock and rolls, and rolls and rocks”, but in the end, wants to “give it to You”, meaning God, meaning this is a Christian song. It might not be your style, but it’s not a bad song and it’s got a solid bridge, so there.

“Great Alaskan Ninja” is a hip-hop flavored song without the guest rapper about a band on the road, and happens to have one of my favorite song titles ever. The humor in this song starts to bring back the sense of humor that the band established in Watusi, which is always a good thing.

“Ketchup Is Mustard” is another fine classic that does what all good Christian songs should do, puts the complex and spiritually challenging act of witnessing into the simple act of making a sandwich, and reminds the viewer to make sure to put some mustard on that thing. Besides that it has a kickin’ bass-line and is a really fun song, it’s also fairly deep for being so simple. Well played, fellas.

Next we have “Beatnik”, which is the only song that I feel is truly reminiscent of the “old” Silage, which we have left so far behind by this point that this song seems to be a little out of place. Even the amateur horns make a comeback, but I do love this song, so it’s no bother. I don’t know what the song’s about, I guess it’s about not being a Beatnik, which I can stand behind about 60 years ago.

Finally, we have the title track, a deep, dark, acoustic song very reminiscent of someone trying to sound like Radiohead, which as I understand, was the band’s intention. Apparently the entirety of the song came to Lance Black in a dream, and he proceeded to write this ominous album closer. It’s kind of odd, but quite a pretty song, as long as you don’t mind the extra large and thumpy bass that was mixed into it compared to the rest of the album.

With that, our boys are finished. Sure Damian and Lance started an unsuccessful band called “Parkway” and Lance is still doing music in the reviled “emo” genre, but as far as Silage goes, one of the most interesting bands in a genre aching and yearning for anything musically interesting, this is it. Hopefully you enjoyed, and if not, might I invite you to buy either one of the CD’s the band put out for mere pennies, since apparently one thing defunct Christian bands are good for is killer overstock deals.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – From Her To Eternity

There is an unmistakable destructive streak within me that comes out in music, I have been the proud creator of some very noisy, dissonant sounds in my day, and occassionally find myself in a mood to listen to music that most people of sensibility would place into the “noise” category. Today, I very much find myself in a musically violent (violently musical?) mood, so today we are going to talk about Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ very first in a long line of albums, From Her To Eternity:

Is this the face... of a killer?For some unusual reason, there are two different versions of this album that came on CD. The first release featured 10 songs, as CD’s often do. The remastered version features 7 songs, apparently because it was designed to be like the original LP release. Though the extra “cut” songs are on the DVD that accompanies the new CD, the songs that are cut are “In The Ghetto” and “The Moon Is In The Gutter”, the former of which was not written by Cave himself. I downloaded both versions from my handy Zune Marketplace, and though I like to opt for more songs, the remastered album sounds so much better, and while I like those two extra songs, the album flows much better without them.

I say “flows” because, without those two rather musical-theatre-sounding songs, the album becomes 7 tracks of madness and chaos, with pounding rhythms and Nick spends the whole time half singing and half commanding the lyrics, possibly while drunk. The entire sound of this album is characterized by pounding rhythms on either drum, piano, or some accidental combination of the two, usually accompanied by a simplistic yet effective bass-line, and then from there it’s anybody’s game. Nick’s vocals, whether commanding, shouting, screaming, or just simply singing, projects a mental image with me like he was doing some insane theater cabaret and each song is his 5 minute long monologue, chanted and acted out with quite a lot of control for how chaotic it sounds. The guitar does little more than make noises in the background and sometimes sneaks some action into the foreground. There are other mysterious sounds that are mainly explosions of tone and percussion, or sometimes it’s an instrument being tuned rather than played. All of these things seem harrowing at first, but there is an undeniable beauty to it all, and at the very least, it’s good ol’ honest art.

The album actually starts out with a cover, and at the time I decided to listen to this album, was the only song I had heard of prior to listening, as it’s one of my favorite songs ever. It’s Leonard Cohen’s “Avalanche” from his amazing(ly depressing) third album, Songs Of Love And Hate. Since it’s likely impossible for the average guitarist (definitely impossible for me), the infamous classical fingerpicking style that Cohen adopted for the performance of this song is eschewed in favor of about half of the notes being played in an electric guitar arpeggio as the rest of the tone is filled in with the other instruments, which are the afore-mentioned explosions of mysterious origin. Nick’s vocals are especially gruff and angry in this song, but one can tell that, unlike Leonard Cohen, his voice isn’t suited for the tricky key of F minor, thus it sounds less like a horrible, malevolent presence and more like some guy pretending to be a horrible, malevolent presence. Either way, this cover is interesting, to say the least, but I was enormously surprised to find that it’s my least favorite track on the album. Still, that’s the way they started the whole thing, who am I to argue?

“Cabin Fever!” Starts the non-cover album off with a grunt and a few squeals as the bass-line pounds away along with the piano and an excellent 3/4 timed beat. The whole thing is dissonant and mostly comprised of guttural noises on Nick’s part, but there are definitely lyrics there, and like the title suggests, about a captain on a long voyage, I suppose, but written by someone who has gone crazy from too much confined space, and of course, performed that way vocally. It’s a great song, I quite enjoy it!

“Well Of Misery” follows the same vein of guttural noises and a pounding rhythm, only it’s more in the style of a pounding blues song which is set to the rhythm of a hammer coming down on some prisoners or slaves on a galley ship. The lyrics are about misery, for sure, in the form of a well, but there is an obvious hidden meaning behind the clandestine lyrics, and I for one am not brave enough to go in and explore, lest to say that there’s a pretty neat harmonica part that brings the song out after its 5 minutes.

We then come to “From Her To Eternity”, another rhythmic, piano-and-noise driven foray into insanity, this time in its most maddening form: obsession over a woman. The creepiness that possesses weird looking guys who are probably serial killers waiting to happen is a popular theme in song, but this is by far the best representation of it I have heard yet. I understand this song is a bit of a live staple, for this I am glad.

Provided you are listening to the LP or newer CD and haven’t been troubled with the two songs in the middle there, the next song is “Saint Huck”, which is my favorite song on the album, no small feat considering the similarity of the material. Maybe it’s because this one is nearly 8 minutes long, and more is better? I don’t know, I think it’s mainly that this song drones more than the others, and that really tends to highlight Cave’s “eccentric” performance of the lyrics. The lyrics are a bit of a trilogy without a connecting theme that is very obvious, since it’s about Huckleberry Finn, Homer’s Odyssey, and Elvis Presley, and all of it is done in that kind of stream-of-consciousness writing method that I find fascinating, because I feel like I can almost always follow these kinds of weird songs.

“Wings Off Flies” is about 4 minutes of a team of drunken Nick Caves sings drunkenly about being drunk and crazy about a girl, even making references to the old “she loves me, she loves me not” thing. You’d never know by listening to it, but this song is genius, that’s about all I have to say about it.

Finally we have “A Box For Black Paul”, which is just under 10 minutes long. It’s mostly piano in this one, no drums to speak of, and the guitar is once again mostly noise. The song, as most good songs are, is about death. I would give some poignant and well-researched description of the song, because I feel it deserves it, but I haven’t really given myself the time to analyze this song, I just likes listening to it.

So that’s Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds with their album From Her To Eternity. I have most of the band’s catalog now, thanks to Zune, so I’ll be tuning into them later and hopefully we’ll have something for you later.

Travis – The Invisible Band

Ah Travis, the feel-good Scottish band of this or any other time, if you ask me. Nevermind that they sometimes allude to murder and depression and sometimes you haven’t the first clue what they’re talking about, they’re still a good-time, feel-good, summer-time band, and what better time to talk about them than this lazy, good-for-nothing Sunday? So let’s get on with it, this is The Invisible Band:

Human hair looks DISGUSTING under a microscope

One of the oddest things about Travis is how they use the same minor chords and whispy, effect-laden guitar sounds that the other big rainy British bands use, only their hit songs still have that gorgeous, melodic sing-a-long vibe that makes people sensitive to that type of music tingle with delight. Until they decide to turn the tables, the band seems incapable of depressing the listener despite the presence of depressing chords.

Perhaps the secret lies somewhere in the song “Sing”, which is in one of the favorite keys for acoustic songwriters because it means using a capo, “F#m” or “F Sharp Minor”, which is the key of songs such as “Wonderwall” by Oasis, and that song that makes fun of “Wonderwall” by Oasis, “Writing To Reach You” by Travis. The song’s moody guitar strumming is assisted by a banjo, of all things, so maybe that’s why the song is uplifting. Either way, the song invites you to sing, and it’s got a video with someone flinging an octopus, so I challenge you to find something wrong with it. You can’t!

“Dear Diary”, on the other hand, has a little more of an obtuse theme and a chord structure that makes a little more sense to us hoity-toity musical types. It’s not a bad song, by any stretch, just a slight interruption of the flow. We should move on from it as quickly as possible.

Ah, a song that is figuratively on the fence, “Side”. I love this song because it spends 4 minutes, contains lots of words, yet says absolutely nothing. Take the chorus, for example:

The grass is always greener on the other side
Neighbor’s got a new car that you want to drive
When the time is running out you want to stay alive
We all live under the same sky
We all will live, we all will die
There is no wrong, there is no right
The circle only has one side

For one, I would like to spend the rest of this writeup arguing basic geometry with the songwriter, but we’ll leave that be. Can you find an actual meaning in these words? I guess it would be more accurate to say that, like a circle, this song has no point.

Dash catchy, though.

Moving on a bit, “Flowers In The Window” is the most disgustingly sugary and giddy song I have ever heard from someone who comes from a country made up of 70% rain clouds. The banjo makes a return, as well as some lyrics apparently about a woman who is pregnant and is putting flowers in the window and how lovely of a day it is. This song is wonderful, don’t get me wrong, but if you listen to it too much it’ll rot your teeth through, and we can’t have that.

In contrast to that song, “The Cage” is a little more deep and meaningful, a sweet little allegory of a little bird being compared to the low-down hell-cat of a woman who just left the singer. Either it’s a sweet parting song to a lovely little bird, or someone’s got a case of the passive-aggressives. Either way, I really like this song, it’s got one of the more beautiful melodies that Travis, an already beautifully melodic band by this point, could conjur up.

“Safe”, which is a song that sounds like it was left sitting in the garage for a while before being started up, is mainly there to take up space, I’m convinced, so that the album’s moderate length will be “safe”. Not that I would imply that the band would write throwaway numbers, but if they did, this would be one of them.

“Follow The Light” is another saccarine-sweet number that is meant to inspire those good old motivated feelings while putting you into a diabetic coma. In fact, I have drank something like 9 Big Reds while writing this, I had better stop talking about this song while I still have a pancreas.

Ahhhh, “Last Train”, that’s more like it. A dark, dreary, yet still remarkably clean and Travis-ey song, “Last Train” is one of my favorite songs the band has produced. It compares songwriting to mass murder, and connects both of them to obsession over a girl, all against a minory song with electric guitar feedback. Well done, boys!

“Afterglow” is another example of why I think these albums should be a bit shorter, if you know what I mean. Oh yes, I think you do know. You’re a perceptive reader, after all, and I respect that about you. Come on, let’s get out of this song and go over here, to the end of the album.

Sorry, we stumbled into “Indefinitely”, I meant the end of the album, though this song isn’t so bad at all, just quite long and we’ve already had 11 very healthy-sized songs, and well, despite the presence of church-bells, this one is kind of dragging us down like so many 108 degree Texas summer days.

Now we’re here, at “The Humpty Dumpty Love Song” and its drum machine opening. You have to love songs that, if you listen closely, with headphones, you can hear the singer smoking something that he clearly has to hold in if you know what I mean. There’s also a baby crying in the background, which is interesting, because the whole thing sounds like the singer is just recording this whole thing in his living room, smoking the highly illegal and addictive “marihuana”, and neglecting his child in the next room while playing electric guitar and casio keyboards into a computer. Such irresponsible parenting may be reprehensible to persons of sensibility, but it makes for a smashing little song to end the album on.

Yes, the album does get slightly stale in parts, but that’s what Summer is all about, you gotta take the dragging length along with the sunny fun days, at least when you’re this close to the equator.

So, until that blazing, oppressive, bastard of a sun comes up to greet us again, we hope you have enjoyed today’s entry right here on Album Du Jour!

Buddy Guy – Skin Deep

If you’re going to talk about the Blues with someone who has only a passing interest in the genre, it’s still rather likely that they’ve heard of Buddy Guy. Perhaps it’s all those guitar festivals that he attends, maybe it’s just because his performances are so memorable, or maybe it’s because he has one of the coolest names ever, who knows? It certainly can’t be because he’s one of the greatest Blues men of this or any other time, no people usually don’t notice that:

...maybe it could also be because he has 4 hands, and 2 of them are see-through!This is Skin Deep, Buddy’s newest album, and in my opinion, the best one since Damn Right, I’ve Got The Blues, though there are literally dozens of albums he’s done that I have yet to hear, so don’t take my word for it.

Skin Deep does what very few Blues albums do, in that it starts off with some jammin’ hits, but by the time you’re at the end of the album, you’ll be thinking some pretty deep thoughts about the destiny of one of the most beloved (by people who aren’t stupid) genres of American culture. Not too bad for a man in his 70’s now, eh?

I would defy you to listen to the first song, “Best Damn Fool”, and tell me that’s a man in his mid-70’s playing those ripped-up guitar solos and singing this vibrant song. Honestly, I’m in my mid-20’s and I could only hope to have half of this man’s energy. The lyrics are amazing too, dirty, funny, and all Blues:

I’m the one and only, I’m the one man that you won’t forget
I’m the one and only (Buddy Guy, that is) I’m the one man that you won’t forget
I can make a bulldog kiss a pussycat
I’m the best damn fool you ever met

I understand that a lot of this album features Derek Trucks, notable musical child of one or more of the Allman Brothers, and that’s just fine, he’s a pretty good guitarist. It’s his wife, Susan Tedeschi, that I am kind of hesitant about.

Indeed, Susan joins Buddy Guy in singing the next track, “Too Many Tears”, and I don’t know what it is about her vocal delivery that rubs me the wrong way, so I won’t serve up any real criticism of it, except to say that it rubs me the wrong way. Still, if this blohg is any indication, you’ll notice that I’m highly picky about female vocalists, I still can’t explain why.

“Lyin’ Like A Dog” is one of those slow Blues-by-numbers songs (my favorite of which is Weird Al Yankovic’s “Generic Blues”), and I do love this song, particularly for its interesting way of treating the age-old problem of women doing someone wrong. Basically, he blames his partner’s infidelity on a lack of self-not-giving-a-damn-about, and seeks to help her out with that, it’s very forward-thinking and psychological for a Blues song, quite impressive!

“Show Me The Money” is a nice mid-tempo number about how women are always looking for money. It features some dialogue against the mid-song guitar solo between Buddy Guy, and a certain female backup singer. This song is pretty great, mainly for the line “The only thing better than money/ is a pile of that cold, hard cash”. I love Buddy Guy’s lyrics for this reason.

After this kind of “hit-maker” sequence of songs, the album takes a turn toward the profound with “Every Time I Sing The Blues”. It’s in a minor key, first off, which gives it that sense of importance (Blues often are major key, you see), and it’s a dissertation on why someone would want to sing the Blues, and Buddy enlists the help of guitar legend Eric Clapton to help explain. It’s an awe-inspiring song if you’re into the Blues at all, and if you aren’t, why are you reading today’s entry?

“Out In The Woods” is an interesting song that combines Buddy’s electric lead with Derek Truck’s acoustic slide guitar, at least that’s what I remember reading, information on this album is so scarce on the internet, and the liner notes are all the way over there. The song is about someone who lived in the woods all his life, and one of the lines says that all the crocodiles and bears and such know him by his name. Why would a wild animal know your name? Do you go around introducing yourself to all the animals? Such a mystery is this outdoors life of his.

“Hammer And Nail” takes a bit of a turn back to the cheeky blues where the whole thing leads up to a “stinger” line (a favorite way for Buddy Guy to convey his bluesy messages). Yes, every verse in this funky classic ends on “You can’t beat that with a hammer and nail”. Sometimes writing about Blues albums is too easy, that’s why I don’t do it all that often.

Skipping ahead a little, the album tries to take you into a sentimental direction with the song “Skin Deep”, which I guess is the point of the whole album. The song is about treating each other right, regardless of color, you see, because color is “skin deep”. I have to admit, and maybe it’s because of the simplistic nature of the Blues or perhaps it’s Buddy’s age, but this song is so very hard to take seriously because it’s so riddled with clichés that have been in service for centuries now (seriously, “don’t judge a book by its cover” makes an appearance in the text of the song). So, say what you will about it, this song didn’t do much for me.

Now, “Who’s Gonna Fill These Shoes” is a song that really moved me. Buddy makes it apparent that the Blues are going away, and that nobody’s really around now to fill those shoes. It’s not only a historical lesson on how the Blues got started, but it also presents a sad realization (whether knowingly or not) that Buddy is among the last in a great generation of amazing Blues singers. Who is going to fill those shoes? Man, I can’t think of anyone who’s still going that isn’t a senior citizen, and that’s kind of distressing.

“Smell The Funk” is the kind of title for a song that makes me want to withhold what the song is actually about, because I can.

Finally, the album ends with a song that I consider to be one of the most amazing Blues songs ever to be written. Not just for its melodic quality or lyrical content, but just the very essence of the song “I Found Happiness” blows my mind:

I finally found out what I’ve been looking and waiting for
And there ain’t too damn much else I have to say
Hey, I finally found out what I’ve been looking and waiting for
And there ain’t too damn much else I have to say
Except… she’s just like a fitness machine, and we work out every day

That’s right, an honest-to-God anti-Blues song. If that doesn’t signify the End Time of the Blues, I don’t know what will.

I know what will signify the end of another album writeup here at Album Du Jour, so please join us tomorrow!

Radiohead – Kid A

Well it’s been an emotional day for everyone, hasn’t it? I think we all ought to relax and take a load off with some good ol’ fashioned Radiohead. Today, we see how the pressures of being rich and famous and depressed all culminate into some extraordinary blippy music:

Behold the unscalable peaks of JPEG mountains!

To really understand how Radiohead went from OK Computer to this, unless you’re just that good at dissecting artistic changes, is to see their film Meeting People Is Easy: A Film About Radiohead. That movie is entirely about how being famous sucks and being Radiohead makes it even worse. Between pretentious, blurry shots of whatever, the movie shows the band sulking, playing the same songs at every show, getting made fun of by club bouncers, and sulking some more. The point they seemed to be shooting for, however, is that OK Computer and the stress involved in its monstrous success and subsequent world tour made the delicate psychic defenses of our favorite depressios crumble like a big crumbly thing.

Thus, upon returning to the studio and picking up their guitars to churn out another mind-blowing, rocked-out, and massively appealing album, they suddenly got flash-backs to how terrible it is making albums that everyone loves and decided to throw away their guitars and start playing with lap-tops. This album is the result of that, and this is actually the exact point in which I started becoming a fan of Radiohead, so I was there for all this nonsense.

Before the album was released, there were many ways that the band decided to let everyone hear it before buying it, possibly to avert the sense of “what the hell is this” that would inevitably arise when the wide-eyed innocent young alternative rockers of the day would pick up the album and find out that the guitars had been replaced with bleeps and blips. My favorite method they used to let people pre-listen to their album (before the days of Myspace and rampant, habitual music thievery) was to play the entire thing, back to front, on MTV2, against the footage of a turntable, and some blurry figures in the background.

Ah, MTV2. Remember when it used to play music videos since MTV proper had decided to become on perpetual reality special about special needs teenagers? Indeed, some people my age who haven’t smoked it all out of their memory just might remember how MTV proper used to play music videos, but those times are long behind us.

Anyway, I was well prepared for what had happened to Radiohead because I saw the film, pre-heard the album, watched the little “not really a video” 10 second clips that they splattered all over MTV2, convinced myself that the band really was trying to be low-key instead of just promoting themselves in a more clever way, and was ready, cash-in-hand when the CD came into the shops.

Now, this is the part of the story where I would pull up the curtain, blow away the smoke screen, and reveal to you that I actually think Kid A is utterly bad, but it’s not true. Kid A is brilliant, excessively so, what that band did with a few lap-tops, some tricky effects, and one very confused horn ensemble will forever stick out in my mind as one of the very best abstract musical adventures in any of the decades I have been alive in.

First you’ve got Everything In Its Right Place, which introduces an electric piano sound, provided (I believe) by Thom Yorke, who also introduces us to a whole different style of singing. See, up until this point (and since I’m working these album writeups in reverse chronological order, I will have to tell you more about later) Thom Yorke had one of the most passionate, over-the-top British singing voices that little island had to offer. His high tenor notes and wonderfully smooth falsetto was the stuff of legends. Of course, he still has this voice, but in the majority of Kid A, it’s pushed back and mostly falsetto or a light tenor. Yes, Kid A is the first real Radiohead album that introduces the idea that Thom Yorke sounds just as good, if not better, when he’s singing low-key and softly.

So what better way to drive this point home than to nearly eliminate his singing for the next track? Yes, the actual title track of the album is an electronically filtered singing voice set against more ultra-warm e-piano, and a really interesting fluttery beat from Phil, one of the more eccentric drummers in the biz.

This is followed closely by one of the only “rockin'” tracks on the album, a song not driven by guitars like the previous hits, but by a bass-line, a simple, major-to-minor bass-line that is now instantly recognizable. The song is “The National Anthem”, and it’s by far one of my favorite Radiohead songs. The other feature of this song (unless you’re the kind who even cares what an Ondes Martenot is) is the horn section, arranged by Jonny Greenwood, master arranger of nonsense. The crazy thing, despite the melange of dissonant notes, the horn ensemble of this song’s end will stay with you, possibly for all eternity.

Then we have the really echoey “How To Disappear Completely”, which is explored a little in the movie because it’s depressing. That is followed up a sort of useless “instrumental” (it’s just guitar feed-back that has been looped through a computer, nothing more to see here folks), and then the first song to contain guitar: “Optimistic”.

From “Optimistic”, with its wonderful little guitar scale that Jonny plays during the chorus, the band keeps the guitars strapped on, but turns the cohesive knob almost all the way down for “In Limbo”. I still can’t put into human words what is going on with “In Limbo”, but it makes more sense than anything from when The Rolling Stones went drug-crazy and did an album, so take that how you wish.

Next is “Idioteque”, a title that proves the band still has a sense of humor, albeit one very shrouded by the pretentious air of… really pretentious things… about them (it’s 4 in the morning, I can’t be expected to be clever at this hour). The song itself is a cracker of a song, kind of a Radiohead-flavored dance groove that gives Thom an excuse to do some really hyperactive stage movements while crooning the surprisingly difficult song.

Next we have “Morning Bell”, which has a tricky beat that I think is 5/8 or something, I can’t remember and I’m not that good with time signatures. Either way, it’s a stressful count, and the song itself is a disturbing piece of work, but unlike its Amnesiac counterpart, this one is actually really catchy and good. The song is worth it just for the screaming weird guitar at the end of the song, but I’m just the type of person who would listen to a song just for a certain 10 second increment.

Finally, we have “Motion Picture Soundtrack”, which is secretly one of my favorite Radiohead songs ever as well. It starts with a very hollow sounding organ (perhaps a Hammond?) and is later assisted not only with the booming bass pedals, but also with a harp, of all things. The song is a farewell song that has to do with Heaven and cheap sex and something or other. It’s a fantastic way to end an album, which is why I scratch my head wondering why they included a cheap bonus track of noise as a secret track, that really derails things when you’re trying to sleep to this album (which I have many times).

So that’s Kid A, a rip-snortin’ good time from the good ol’ boys at Radiohead. Ya’ll come back real soon now, y’hear?

Michael Jackson – Thriller

Today we lost one of the most universally recognizable (whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing) people to exist in my lifetime, the King Of Pop, Michael Jackson. Dead after only 50 years of this earth, over 40 of which was spent entertaining people, Jackson pioneered popular music into the direction it has ultimately arrived at, and I feel like he’s absorbed some of that transformation himself.

Starting off as a handsome, black youth, it seems appropriate that the King of Pop would end his life as the strangest looking pasty white person I have ever seen. His face, marred by years of plastic surgery, looked more terrifying than any of the zombies that adorn the cover of this, one of his many legendary albums. So too has American pop culture, which had the same seemingly innocent origins, transformed into a terrifying, insane, ugly ordeal that claimed the sanity, good looks, and otherwise non-terrifying nature of its own proclaimed King.

As “Jack-O” underwent transformation after transformation, he stopped making those golden albums and started concentrating more on trying to stave off the pressures that we, the pop culture community, imposed upon him. Such is the pain of fame and fortune, I suppose. The very people that made him popular started to turn on him, to ridicule and smear him, whether he was guilty or not, and in keeping him in the limelight, it seems that everyone forgot that, as an entertainer, we had sucked all the entertainment out of him and never given him a chance to recreate albums like this one.

Is it really our King Of Pop that went crazy, or did we go crazy over simultaneously glorifying and villainizing someone whose only crime was trying to be the best entertainer ever… and building a zoo of exotic animals in his home?

Anyway, this is the first celebrity death that I have ever seen have this much impact on the internet. Twitter broke down, Wikipedia broke down, most news sources broke down, as every last person clamored to find out what happened to the poor kid. Jokes were made, somber notes were made, all kinds of acts of verbal kindness and dismay were written into Facebooks and Livejournals and Myspaces and certain album-a-day journals. Truly, America has lost a friend, a friend that we may have taken for granted far too much, but one who, in his eccentricity, may very well represent the plastic surgery ridden, kid-oggling beast in our culture. How old is Miley Cyrus again? How many suggestive poses has she been photographed in? Oh sure, blame the musician for supposedly harrassing young children, our society does it every day and none of us have made albums like Thriller.

Either way, I am writing this entry today, at half-length, to show my respect for Michael Jackson. He was weird there for most of my life-time, but we’re all a little weird. I have never actually heard the album Thriller, nor any Michael Jackson album, in its entirety, but I can assure you that, through the insane amount of radio play this album has gotten over the years, that I know each of the songs, and though I never listened to Jackson much, I think he represents something a little deeper than a great artist who was taken far too soon. I hope his death gives us, a nation of media consumers, a little bit of insight into how we treat people we collectively love.

It won’t, but either way, R.I.P. Michael Jackson:

There's a joke to be made here, but I sure as hell ain't making it

Honey – Lovely

Today’s album is kind of a unique one, in that I have owned it and listened to it for many, many years, yet it does not exist.

Of course, it exists to the extent that it is a CD and you can listen to it and it is music, but it’s apparently so rare that neither Google, Wikipedia, or even Amazon have ever heard of it, so good luck finding it to purchase and listen to. Today we’re talking about the elusive and mysterious band Honey and their debut CD, Lovely:

If it does exist, you ask, then how do you have a downloaded album cover image Mr. Smarty-pants? To which my answer is, up yoursOf course, with a name like “Honey” and an album called Lovely, you should know what to expect from this album. That’s right, dark, dreary, sharp-edged alternative rock. On top of that, these guys are a “Christian” rock band and this album was released in 1997, which as you may know, was a very good year for Christian music. Need I say more?

Well, the word count on this writeup so far says I do, so I shall embellish a little, even if you’re never going to hear this band.

On top of being unpopular, the band is shrouded in mystery partially because they intended to be. There’s only one blurry black and white photo (mostly black) in the album’s liner notes somewhere, they didn’t seem to put out any videos, and the lyrics never even hint that these guys are trying to say anything, much less anything Christian. Yes, it seems that, for this debut album, these guys are a vaguely spiritual dark band with an emphasis on the word “vague”.

Of course, when you’ve got song titles like “Still”, “Mist”, “Worn”, “Same Girl”, and “No, Nine” (which is track 4, the sneaky devils), there’s not really a lot that you want to know about the songs’ meaning. So all we have are the tunes to go by, so it probably relieves you to know that this album, without an exception, is a crazy catchy thing, just full of good, if not cheaply produced, sounds.

The guitars are mainly surfer-reverbed or searingly high-pitched distortion. There’s hardly a “metal” moment in this album, no matter how rockin’ some of the portions are. The vocals wouldn’t allow it anyway, whoever is behind the microphone in this album has a smooth, effervescent voice that somehow combines clarity of tone with such muddled delivery that I defy you to pick out what he’s saying at any point. That is no small feat for an American singer, though British singers all seem to have un-enunciated singing down to an art.

Back when I owned this album on cassette tape (yes I own this album in two different medias, neither of which is the coveted vinyl), I used to listen to it while making futile attempts to sleep at a reasonable hour. For this reason, listening to the album still makes me a little sleepy, at least until I get to the afore-mentioned track 4, “No, Nine” (which could just as easily be No. Nine, it’s hard to read the liner notes and the internet, of course, is no help). Remember when I mentioned screechy guitars? This particular track features a guitar feeding back in a tone that could be physically painful to listen to if my hearing wasn’t so dull bookending it. This song also contains one of the very few attempts at gruffer vocals, but it doesn’t really take, I don’t think.

Though I consider this entire album to be excellent and blurry all throughout, I think the last half of the album contains the album’s best moments. Interestingly, however, the first song on either half of the album (well, track 1 and track 6 out of 10, I don’t remember the actual cassette’s side placement) sound eerily similar, but the songs that follow each are pretty different.

“Side B”, if that’s what it should be called, has some really solid melodies. The song “My Brian”, for instance, has an unforgettable chorus that is raised an octave for the second repetition, which is a good way to make a chorus memorable I suppose. It’s followed, without a pause, by “Evergreen”, which is a really ambient, chilled-out song that not only has a really cool bass-line all throughout, but almost seems to have a metaphorical point! Here are some of the words:

You stayed alive when all were dead
Not swayed at all by surrounding red
By surrounding red

You showed me five, you showed me two
Both and red and white reflecting you
Have you seen my evergreen?

See? Perfect sense.

The song “Worn” is the only song that I’m not impressed with, and since it occurs on the second side of the album, I guess I should retract my statement about the B side being much stronger than the A side. Still, I’m not actually going to do that because it will mean coming up with an even wordier hypothesis, so instead you’re just going to have to bear with me as I go into my favorite song on the album.

Yep, it’s called “Blinder” and it’s right on the tail-end of the album. It doesn’t make a lick of sense, but it’s got a great chord progression, perhaps sub-standard vocals for what the album had established so far, but the haunting electric guitars and effects and things just make it so cool, and at the end, just when you think the song is over, it has this really cool rockout portion where not only is the beat going backwards, but a lot of stuff that isn’t backwards is added in and it’s just all crazy and awesome.

Yeesh, writing stuff like that makes me glad I’m not getting paid for it.

Anyway, I still find this phenomenon kind of strange. I have never seen a band not have any kind of internet existence, even though this band broke up over 10 years ago and were on the tiny, tiny Sublime label (where once-considered obscure band Kosmos Express hailed) , but this album is so good, I figured somebody would want to write about it.

Oh well. I will mention one more thing about Honey before saying good day, they came out with a follow-up album, apparently in response to possible criticism about the last album being vague and the band photos being dark and blurry. The second album is mainly acoustic, really, REALLY praise & worship type of music, and a crystal clear photo of the band, a bunch of goofy looking dudes (and one of their girlfriends) wearing all black and leather. It was about the worst case of deflating something cool that I’ve ever seen. If THAT album still existed, I would talk about it as well, until then, enjoy pretending this writeup never happened! I know I will!