October 15, 2019

Embrace - The Good Will Out (1998)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Alternative Rock, Post Grunge
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© 1998 Hut/Virgin/Mobetta
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Debut albums rarely arrive with as much expectation as Embrace's The Good Will Out -- in Britain, at least. Arriving after the massive success of Oasis and the Verve, The Good Will Out was perceived as the heir apparent to the lad-rock throne. One listen to The Good Will Out illustrates why -- the group ingeniously combines the anthemic hooks and monolithic roar of Oasis with the sweeping aural majesty of the Verve. That alone makes the album a bracing listen, but The Good Will Out doesn't quite have enough substance to compete in the big leagues. Danny McNamara simply doesn't have the charisma of Liam Gallagher or Richard Ashcroft, and his songs aren't as immediate or memorable as Noel Gallagher's or Ashcroft's. That's not to say they're bad songs -- on the contrary, they're quite good, and they're performed passionately. It's just that in comparison to their peers -- who really are their influences, as well -- they lack that certain magic. Nevertheless, The Good Will Out illustrates enough promise and panache to make it a first-rate debut

tags: embrace, the good will out, 1996, flac,

The Killers - Hot Fuss (2004) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Pop Rock, Alternative Rock
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 2004 Island Records
AllMusic Review by MacKenzie Wilson
There are so many garage rock/dance-rock tunes perfectly stylized and glamorous for the pop kids in the city and in the suburbs of new-millennium America. What's nice about these the bands producing these songs is how they strive so desperately to individualize themselves. On a commercial level, they do quite well in delivering catchy pop hooks. When it comes to having actual talent, a select few actually do possess attention-worthy integrity. But there are others who don't, and they disappear from the American consciousness after a brief flirtation with success. Such theories, however, are left up to the individual music fan, so let's put that aside for a moment to experience the decadent pop world of the Killers. The Las Vegas foursome introduce a perfectly tailored new wave-induced art rock sound on their debut, Hot Fuss. They wooed MTV audiences and modern rock followers with the success of "Somebody Told Me" during summer 2004. This chunky-riffed single loaded with androgynous mystery and a dalliance with new romantic energy captures the infectious delivery of the Killers as a band. Vocalist/keyboardist Brandon Flowers does his best Simon LeBon imitation; the sex appeal and the boyish charm are perfectly in place as the rest of the band accents his rich, red-hotness just so. "Jenny Was a Friend of Mine" and "Mr. Brightside" are equally as foxy as the album's first single, affirming that a formula is indeed in motion. It's hard to deny the sparkle of Depeche Mode beats and the sensual allure of Duran Duran. After 25 years, those sounds still hold up; by 2004, however, it's an incredible task to pull this kind of thing off without selling yourself to the tastes of the masses. Interpol and the Walkmen have pulled it off; Franz Ferdinand and Hot Hot Heat have potential. The difference with the Killers is that the dynamic doesn't firmly hold together. The gospel/rock jaunt of "All These Things That I've Done" doesn't quit fit around the Cure-inspired synth reveries of "Everything Will Be Alright" and "Believe Me Natalie." "Midnight Show," as much as it plucks from Duran Duran's "Planet Earth" and "Is There Something I Should Know?," does show promise for the Killers. Hot Fuss came at the right time because the pop kids needed something to savor the summer with, and "Somebody Told Me" served that purpose. Now pull out your Duran Duran records and dance like no one is watching.

tags: the killers, hot fuss, 2004, flac,

The Killers - Sam's Town (2006) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Pop Rock, Alternative Rock
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 2006 Island Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Not even the Killers, the champions of retro new wave, think that synth rock is music to be taken seriously, and Lord knows that this Vegas quartet wants to be taken seriously -- it's a byproduct of being taken far too seriously in the first place, a phenomenon that happened to the Killers after their not-bad-at-all 2004 debut album, Hot Fuss, was dubbed as the beginning of the next big thing by legions of critics and bloggers, all searching for something to talk about in the aftermath of the White Stripes and the Strokes. The general gist of the statement was generally true, at least to the extent that they were a prominent part of the next wave, the wave where new wave revivalism truly caught hold. They were lighter than Interpol and far gaudier, plus they were fronted by a guy called Brandon Flowers, a name so ridiculous he had to be born with it (which he was). And although it was hailed to the heavens on various areas of the Net, Hot Fuss became a hit the old-fashioned way: listeners gravitated toward it, drawn in by "Mr. Brightside" and sticking around for the rest. Soon, they made the cover of everything from Spin to Q, earning accolades from rock stars and seeing their songs covered on Rock Star, too. Heady times, especially for a group with only one album to its name, and any band that receives so much attention is bound to be thought of as important, since there has to be a greater reason for all that exposure than because Flowers is pretty, right? One of the chief proponents of the belief that the Killers are important is the band itself, which has succumbed to that dreaded temptation for any promising band on its sophomore album: they've gone and grown beards. Naturally, this means they're serious adults now, so patterning themselves after Duran Duran will no longer do. No, they make serious music now, and who else makes serious music? Why, U2, of course, and Bruce Springsteen, whose presence looms large over the Killers' second album, Sam's Town.
The ghosts of Bono and the Boss are everywhere on this album. They're there in the artful, grainy Anton Corbijn photographs on the sleeve, and they're there in the myth-making of the song titles themselves -- and in case you didn't get it, Flowers made sure nobody missed the point prior to the release of Sam's Town, hammering home that he's just discovered the glories of Springsteen every time he crossed paths with the press. Flowers' puppy love for Bruce fuels Sam's Town, as he extravagantly, endlessly, and blatantly apes the Springsteen of the '70s, mimicking the ragged convoluted poet of the street who mythologized mundane middle-class life, turning it into opera. The Killers sure try their hardest to do that here, marrying it to U2's own operatic take on America, inadvertently picking up on how the Dublin quartet never sounded more European than when they were trying to tell one and all how much they loved America. That covers the basic thematic outlook of the record, but there's another key piece of the puzzle of Sam's Town: it's named after a casino in the Killers' home town of Las Vegas, and it's not one of the gleeful, gaudy corporate monstrosities glutting the Strip, but rather one located miles away in whatever passes for regular, everyday Vegas -- in other words, it's the city that lies beneath the sparkling façade, the real city. Of course, there's no real city in Vegas -- it's all surface, it's a place that thinks that a miniature Eiffel Tower and a fake CBGB's are every bit as good as being there -- and that's the case with the Killers too: when it comes down to it, there's no "there" there -- it's all a grand act. Every time they try to dig deeper on Sam's Town -- when they bookend the album with "enterlude" and "exitlude," when Flowers mixes his young-hearts-on-the-run metaphors, when they graft Queen choirs and Bowie baritones onto bridges of songs -- they just prove how monumentally silly and shallow they are. Which isn't necessarily the same thing as bad, however. True, this album has little of the pop hooks of "Mr. Brightside," but in its own misguided way, it's utterly unique. Yes, it's cobbled together from elements shamelessly stolen from Springsteen, U2, Echo & the Bunnymen, Bowie, Queen, Duran Duran, and New Order, but nobody on earth would have thought of throwing these heroes of 1985 together, because they would have instinctively known that it wouldn't work. But not the Killers! They didn't let anything stop their monumental misconception; they were able to indulge to their hearts' content -- even hiring U2/Depeche Mode producers Alan Moulder and Flood to help construct their monstrosity, which gives their half-baked ideas a grandeur to which they aspire but don't deserve. But even if the music doesn't really work, it's hard not to listen to it in slack-jawed wonderment, since there's never been a record quite like it -- it's nothing but wrong-headed dreams, it's all pomp but no glamour, it's clichés sung as if they were myths. Every time it tries to get real, it only winds up sounding fake, which means it's the quintessential Vegas rock album from the quintessential Vegas rock band.

tags: the killers, sams town, sam's, 2006, flac,

Keane - Under The Iron Sea (2006) ☠

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Pop Rock, Alternative Rock
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 2006 Interscope Records
AllMusic Review by MacKenzie Wilson
In the two years that followed the release of their debut album, Keane established themselves as a promising part of the mainstream rock canon. Hit singles like "Somewhere Only We Know," "Bedshaped," and "Everything's Changing" made Hopes and Fears a transatlantic hit, earning the trio two Brit Awards, a Grammy nomination, and a host of sold-out world tours. Critics deemed them as likeable and as accessible as Coldplay, but Keane's return isn't as buoyant as their initial introduction, even if it keeps melody at the forefront. Whereas Hopes and Fears faced uncertainty head on with joyous enthusiasm, Under the Iron Sea is a darker, less romantic set of songs affected by a disenchanted outlook on life and the world's problems. Keane's members feels the frustration of a world torn apart by war, but they also express their own growing pains as a group. Songs such as the grayish ebb and flow of "A Bad Dream" and "Crystal Ball" connect with those reflections. Frontman Tom Chaplin faces the disappointment of growing older on the haunting "Atlantic," another stone-cold gem of synthesizer strings and Tim Rice-Oxley's gorgeous piano delivery. Just when you think it might be totally depressing, though, there are some hints of life hidden in the corners of Under the Iron Sea, and these mysterious loops highlight Keane's new sonic experiments. Thus far they've existed without guitars -- and although the bounty of this record breathes with a collection of various analog synths and an old electric piano, Rice-Oxley's performance is now enhanced with a bevy of guitar effect pedals. Debut single "It Is Any Wonder?" is layered with distorted keyboards as Chaplin cries out, "Stranded in the wrong time/Where love is just a lyric in a children's rhyme, a soundbite." The song was ostensibly written about the Iraq War -- specifically Britian's involvement -- and it's a move forward in both lyrical content and musical delivery. Keane should be applauded for going after a different sound; there's no harm in that, even though some die-hard fans might rush to judge Under the Iron Sea as sounding a bit too much like U2.

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Keane - Perfect Symmetry (2008)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Pop Rock
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© 2008 Interscope Records
AllMusic Review by Andrew Leahey
Keane bids adieu to balladry and ushers in a different style -- '80s pop -- with Perfect Symmetry. While the album isn't solely devoted to exploring that new genre, it's certainly the focus, and "Spiralling" appropriately kickstarts the set with whooping vocals and retro synthesizers. "When we fall in love," sings Tom Chaplin in his stadium-sized voice, "we're just falling in love with ourselves." Coming from the same mouth that once crooned the earnest strains of "Somewhere Only We Know," those lyrics are wholly different -- a sign that four years spent in the shadow of U2, Coldplay, and other like-minded bands have convinced Keane to make their own Achtung Baby. Of course, that album saw U2 turning sonic experimentation into something entirely inventive, which Perfect Symmetry doesn't quite accomplish with its own mixture. This isn't quite art, after all; it's mostly just fun, shot through with a self-consciously cheesy approach that's engineered to sound little like the department-store rock of 2004's Hopes and Fears.
"Fun" seems to be at the top of the band's agenda, though, and Perfect Symmetry succeeds in doing away with most of the pre-conceived notions that accompany Keane records. The "old" sound doesn't even surface until midway through the album, when the album's title track offers up a combination of sparse piano notes (later giving way to dense, double-fisted arpeggios) and a meteoric chorus. But that's the exception, not the rule, and Perfect Symmetry sounds more comfortable during its truly unexpected moments: the spacy blips and bleeps of "You Haven't Told Me Anything," the synthesized anthem "Again and Again," and the energetic "Wooooooh!" that opens the entire album. The band's biggest strength remains Chaplin's ability to turn a melodic phrase with grace and dexterity, which fails to lose its vitality no matter the musical context, but Keane's willingness to take these left-hand turns deserves its own share of applause.

tags: keane, perfect symmetry, 2008, flac,

October 13, 2019

Keane - Hopes & Fears (2004)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Pop Rock
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© 2004 Interscope Records
AllMusic Review by MacKenzie Wilson
 The English music press can never let anyone be. They're always quick to hail the next big thing, and in this case, the next big Coldplay is Keane. (Lowgold briefly held that title upon its debut release in 2001, but U.K. critics rushed to give that crown to someone else.) Keane haven't positioned themselves to be kings of anything, though, let alone the next Coldplay. Sure, Coldplay's biggest hit to date, "Clocks," included only pianos, and they released the Safety EP on Fierce Panda, which is also Keane's label, but those are the only things Keane have in common with Coldplay. Alongside their beautiful, emotive dalliance of instrumentation is one thing that'll separate Keane from all the rest, and that's drive. The band's open-hearted ambition on Hopes and Fears is audible on every song. Lead vocalist Tom Chaplin's rich vocals are as vibrant as any choir, and track such as "This Is the Last Time," "Bend and Break," and "Can't Stop Now" reflect Keane's more savory, dramatic moments. Confidence bursts throughout, and for a band that has been around seven years and has never released a studio full-length album until now, achieving nearly epic-like status is quite impressive. Keane obviously have the songs and they have a strong voice leading the front; however, Tim Rice-Oxley (piano/keyboards/bass) and Richard Hughes (drums) allow Hopes and Fears to come alive with glamour and without the sheen of slick studio production. Even slow build-up tracks like "Bedshaped" and "We Might as Well Be Strangers" are just as passionate, if not more so, than some of the bigger numbers on the album. Some might find Keane's debut a bit stagy, or too theatrical at first, but that's okay. Listening to "Somewhere Only We Know" alone a few times is more than enough to convince you that Keane stand next to Coldplay -- challenging them rather than emulating -- and it's a respectable match at that.

tags: keane, hopes and fears, 2004, flac,

Audioslave - Audioslave (2002) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Post Grunge
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 2002 Epic/Interscope Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
It's subtle, but telling, that the cover of Audioslave's eponymous debut is designed by Storm Thorgerson, the artist behind Pink Floyd's greatest album sleeves. Thorgerson, along with Roger Dean, epitomized the look of the '70s, the era of supergroups, which is precisely what Audioslave is -- a meeting of Rage Against the Machine, minus Zack de la Rocha, with former Soundgarden vocalist Chris Cornell. Though both bands were leading lights of alt-metal in the '90s, the two came from totally separate vantage points: Rage Against the Machine was fearlessly modern, addressing contemporary politics over Tom Morello's hip-hop-influenced guitar, while Soundgarden dredged up '70s metal fueled with the spirit of punk. That these two vantage points don't quite fit shouldn't be a surprise -- there is little common ground between the two, apart that they're refugees from brainy post-metal bands. Of the two camps, Chris Cornell exerts the strongest influence, pushing the Rage Against the Machine boys toward catchier hooks and introspective material. Occasionally, the group winds up with songs that play to the strengths of both camps, like the storming lead single "Cochise." For Cornell fans, it's a relief to hear him unleash like this, given the reserve of his brooding solo debut, but this is hardly a one-man show. The Rage band, led by the intricate stylings of guitarist Tom Morello, gets their chance to shine, including on numbers that are subtler and shadier than the average Rage tune. Which brings up the primary fault on the album: Perhaps Morello, and perhaps the rest of RATM, are technically more gifted than, say, Soundgarden, but they never sound as majestic, as powerful, or as cinematic as what Cornell's songs need. His muted yet varied solo album proved that he needed muscle, but here it's all muscle, no texture or color. Consequently, many of the songs sound like they're just on the verge of achieving liftoff, never quite reaching their potential. There are moments, usually arriving in the first half, where Audioslave suddenly, inexplicably clicks, sounding like a band, not a marketer's grand scheme. Still, these moments are few and far between and it's hard to get through this album as a whole. By the end, it's clear that this pairing was a clever idea, but not an inspired one.

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Audioslave - Out of Exile (2005)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Post Grunge, Hard Rock
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© 2005 Epic/Interscope Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Given that most supergroups last little longer than a single album, it was easy to assume that Audioslave -- the pairing of Soundgarden vocalist Chris Cornell and the instrumental trio at the core of Rage Against the Machine -- was a one-off venture. That suspicion was given weight by their eponymous 2002 debut, which sounded as if Cornell wrote melodies and lyrics to tracks RATM wrote after the departure of Zack de la Rocha, but any lingering doubts about Audioslave being a genuine rock band are vanished by their 2005 second album, Out of Exile. Unlike the first record, Out of Exile sounds like the product of a genuine band, where all four members of the band contribute equally to achieve a distinctive, unified personality. It's still possible to hear elements of both Rage and Soundgarden here, but the two parts fuse relatively seamlessly, and there's a confidence to the band that stands in direct contrast to the halting, clumsy attack on the debut. A large part of the success of Out of Exile is due to the songs, which may be credited to the entire group but are clearly under the direction of Cornell, sounding much closer to his past work than anything in Rage's catalog. Even the simple riff-driven rockers are tightly constructed songs with melodies and dramatic tension -- they lead somewhere instead of running in circles -- while the ballads have a moody grace and there's the occasional left-field surprise like the sunny, sweet psych-pop gem "Dandelion"; it's the strongest set of songs Cornell has written in a decade. Which is not to say that Out of Exile is without excesses, but they're almost all from guitarist Tom Morello; his playing can still seem laborious, particularly when he clutters single-string riffs with too many notes (the otherwise fine opener, "Your Time Has Come," suffers from this), and his elastic stomp box excursions verge on self-parody on occasion. Still, these are isolated moments on an album that's otherwise lean, hard, strong, and memorable, a record that finds Audioslave coming into its own as a real rock band.

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Audioslave - Revelations (2006) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Post Grunge
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 2006 Epic Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Given the short distance separating Audioslave's second album, Out of Exile, in 2005 and their third, Revelations, in 2006, it's easy to assume that the Rage Against the Machine/Soundgarden supergroup has finally turned into an actual working band -- either that or the group is working hard to get to the end of their contract so they can go their separate ways (a suspicion stoked by the flurry of Chris Cornell-centric press surrounding its release, including the announcement that he's recording a solo album and will be singing the theme song for the new James Bond film, Casino Royale, on his own). Whether or not either theory is proven true over time doesn't change the fact that Revelations builds upon Out of Exile, sounding even more like the work of a genuine band than its predecessor. In light of this record, Out of Exile feels driven by Cornell, which itself was a shift away from the Rage-driven debut. Here, the two are integrated fully into a distinctive sound, one that's tight and focused, one that's aggressive but not overly heavy. Also, Audioslave has become increasingly rhythm-driven instead of riff-driven; even on the slower songs and heavy rockers, the pulse and pull of the rhythm defines the song more than the riff. Given this emphasis on rhythm, it's not a surprise that Audioslave displays an overt funk and soul influence here, ranging from the hard funk of "One and the Same" to the Motown homage of "Original Fire." This not only makes Revelations sound like the result of a working band, one that likes to jam together, but it also gives it a lighter feel in its tone, a feeling that Cornell runs with on his lyrics and singing, which are considerably less tortured and brooding than before. All this doesn't necessarily make Revelations a fun album -- making music is serious work for Audioslave and they expect the same from their audience -- but it does make for their most colorful, diverse, and consistent record yet.

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Adelitas Way - Notorious (2017)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock
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© 2017 Vegas Syn
Review by Tara Shea for Cryptic Rock.com
Underdogs of the Hard Rock scene, through dedication and passion, Adelitas Way continue to pump out quality Rock-n-Roll. Determined to keep moving forward, the Las Vegas, Nevada natives join forces again for their latest album, Notorious, released on October 20, 2017 via their label The Vegas Syn.
Their second full-length record in two years, following 2016’s chart-topping Getaway, Notorious marks their fifth overall studio effort. Before we look at the future, we must understand the past. That said, for Adelitas Way, the journey began eight years ago with Vocalist Rick DeJesus leading the way. Making an impact with their 2009 self-titled album, it was 2011’s Home School Valedictorian which solidified the band on the Rock scene. Touring and building a fanbase all over the world, they followed up with Stuck in 2014, an album DeJesus proclaimed to be the next step in the band’s evolution.
Still making moves toward crafting the best Rock songs they possibly can, Notorious continues the band’s growth. Produced by Johnny K, Brian Howes, Johnny Andrews, and Dave Bassett, the album promises to be a diverse bag of treats. The nine-song playlist is a collection of Hard Rock candy ranging from political, war driven anthems to their profoundly vulnerable ballads.
Wasting no time, Notorious launches with the title-track and current leading single off of the album. As an introduction, it provides a powerful beginning to the album. Making its mark with dominant drum bursts, DeJesus’ eccentric vocals creep in through a retro style, offering the perfect dynamic to the rebel anthem. Fast-paced, “Ready for War” continues the theme of breaking the chains as the band fights for all the right reasons while they “pray for peace, but I’m ready for war.” Here, there is a sense of urgency as the sound waves run in circles, providing a rushing reaction. Snare drums give off the feeling of gunshots, and the bridge is filled with aggressive bass. As the first single off the record, “Ready for War” helped carve the success for the album, playing as the theme song of WWE TLC.
Pulling no punches, lyrically, Adelitas Way tackles the war on drugs with “Trapped,” telling stories of unfortunate ones and pledging an oath to never go back to that type of lifestyle. “I lost my soul so many times,” cries DeJesus, and his confession is heartbreaking. A song that may need time to grow on a listener, it is one that anyone can stand behind lyrically. As a sufferer from addiction, it is encouraging to continue the message of hope, even when one may have lost his/her way. Turning the mood more light and playful, “Tell Me” comes in with sweet guitar, subtle bass, and tambourines rushing against claps that maintain the beat. There is a sense of similarity to Sick Puppies’ “There’s No Going Back” through the swaying groove and echoing vocals, but Adelitas Way does a nice job of surprising their listeners with deliciously sweet ballads such as these.
A change of pace again, “I Want You” is the edgy “Dirty Little Thing” off of Notorious. Packed with marvelous guitar riffs, it is an irresistible headbanger from the ringing feedback that sets off the track. “I can’t get you out of my head,” reveals DeJesus during the amped up Classic Rock number. Then, Adelitas Way continues to make bold statements with inspiring track “The Real World.” The mid-tempo, all-around well composed piece is honesty served on a silver platter. “Eyes are feeling like concrete… The dreams are dying dim” is a fair warning of fighting for what is yours is given as DeJesus advises to try to not slip into the mundane patterns of everyday life.
From the second Notorious begins, Adelitas Way grabs a hold of the listener by the heart in a way they always have. It takes some maturity to open up the way this band does, and it can be admired for the way they are not afraid to show such vulnerability. Whether it is a pick-me-up, a fighting song, or a love ballad, Adelitas Way makes no mistake in orchestrating some of their best work as in Notorious. For these reasons, CrypticRock gives this album 4.5 out of 5 stars.

tags: adelias way, notorious, 2017, flac,

October 12, 2019

Redd Kross - Born Innocent (1982)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Punk Rock, Pop Rock
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© 1982-1991 Frontier Records
AllMusic Review by Nathan Bush
Originally issued in 1982, Born Innocent was the debut full-length release from Redd Kross, a band of suburban L.A. youth fronted by brothers Jeff (guitar, vocals) and Steve McDonald (bass). Aged 18 and 14, respectively, the aspiring punks are aided and abetted here by rhythm guitarist Tracy Lee and drummers Janet Housden and John Stielow as they attack these 16 songs with all the patience of over-stimulated teens and all the subtlety of a slasher flick. The average song length falls below the two-minute mark, during which time Jeff McDonald's whine is rarely coherent above the clamor of his band's brutal rock assault. The punk negation of titles like "Kill Someone You Hate," "Look up at the Bottom," and "Notes and Chords Mean Nothing to Me" couldn't be more appropriate descriptions for this music. "Solid Gold" is a slice of dislocated blues while "St. Lita Ford Blues" disintegrates from a stop-start punk party (complete with jubilant screams) to a raucous three-chord blur. Included for good measure are tributes to both actress Linda Blair ("Linda Blair") and serial killer Charles Manson ("Charlie" and a cover of Manson's own "Cease to Exist"). Though subsequent releases found Redd Kross cleaning up their act, this debut captures them in all their youthful glory; documenting the sound of the McDonalds and company unleashed on an unsuspecting set of guitars, bass, and drums.

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Redd Kross - Neurotica (1987)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Punk Rock, Pop Rock
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© 1987 Big Time
AllMusic Review by Terrance Miles
It seems hard to imagine that a band inspired as much by breakfast cereal and Saturday morning cartoons as rock & roll could have created the album that spawned an entire movement -- grunge. When Neurotica was released in 1987, it inspired hordes of punk/hardcore kids to put down the safety pins and pick up the guitar. The perfect blend of Beatles/Kiss-style pop/rock and Butthole Surfers art rock, the album blends the raw punk spirit of the band that included "Quit School" stickers in their second album, 1984's Teen Babes From Monsanto, with the pure thrift store rock & roll of Kiss, the Rolling Stones, and the Stooges. Jon Auer from the Posies remixed some of these tracks (including the obvious super hit "Peach Kelli Pop") for a potential reissue on Seattle's Sub Pop in the mid/late '90s, but, for whatever reason, this idea was quickly shelved. Largely ignored upon its release in 1987 (Big Time folded shortly after and the band were unable to record under their own name for three years), Neurotica did manage to find its way into some very important young people's bedrooms. Redd Kross had unwittingly created the rough, lo-fi, melodic, rock & roll template that bands like Mudhoney and Nirvana would become very successful exploring over the next few years.

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Pussy Galore - Dial "M" For Motherfucker (1989)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Punk Rock
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© 1989 Caroline Records
AllMusic Review by Kathleen C. Fennessy
The title -- shortened to Dial 'M' on the packaging -- is certainly an attention-getter, but this may just be one of Pussy Galore's more listenable, downright likable releases. The songs are more substantial and the production cleaner (if far from slick). The combination of loud guitars, rattle-trap percussion, and growled/shouted vocals hasn't really changed, but there's more depth to the din. Granted, PG were still kicking out the jams sans bass (kind of like Beat Happening's evil twin) -- but the sound is fuller, less tinny. The biggest change, however, is that the lyrics don't seem designed merely to offend. Sure, there's plenty of profanity flying around, but it's used more for spice than as the main ingredient. Spencer and crew seem more concerned about having a good time than pissing everybody off. If that means throwing a little funk into the mix, so be it. "Understand Me" and "Dick Johnson" are particularly successful attempts to bring some groove to the noise. Some of the other tracks fall into the filler category, but there are still more hits than misses. The end result is that Dial 'M' for Motherfucker sounds more like a blueprint for the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion than the PG of Corpse Love, the useful collection of their hard-to-find 1985-86 material. The fact that Spencer handles most of the vocals, which were previously shared with Julia Cafritz -- who would soon exit the band -- only reinforces that impression.

tags: pussy galore, dial m for motherfucker, mother fucker, 1989, flac,

Redd Kross - Third Eye (1990) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1990 Atlantic Records
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson
Redd Kross reached its peak in the early '80s, when the band made such humorous and clever contributions to punk rock as "Linda Blair." As the '80s progressed, Kross got away from punk and went for cleaner, less reckless alternative rock and power-pop. Those who play 1990's Third Eye next to Kross' early recordings will hear just how radically the band changed over the years. Whether rocking aggressively on "Shonen Knife," going for a very melodic "jangly guitar" approach on "Annie's Gone" and "I Don't Know How to Be Your Friend" or sounding positively Beatlesque on "Bubblegum Factory," Kross shows just how far it has come since the irreverent, freewheeling aggression of "Linda Blair." While some punk enthusiasts missed the old Kross, this decent though not outstanding album proves that the band was still worthwhile at the dawn of the '90s.

tags: redd kross, third eye, 1990, flac,

Lacuna Coil - Dark Adrenaline (2012)

Country: Italy
Language: English
Genre: Gothic Metal, Alternative Metal
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© 2012 Century Media
AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger
Heavy, melodic, and relentlessly melodramatic, Italian goth-metal outfit Lacuna Coil's follow-up to 2009's Shallow Life bristles with the kind of nervous energy and well-honed theatricality that can only come from a band whose name translates to "empty spiral." Like Leaves' Eyes, Nightwish, the Gathering, and Evanescence, the band knows how to set a tone, and Dark Adrenaline, once again produced by Don Gilmore (Bullet for My Valentine, Linkin Park), doesn’t disappoint. Bigger and bolder than the more radio-friendly Shallow Life (a solid, yet calculated, mascara-drenched cover of R.E.M.'s "Losing My Religion" notwithstanding), Dark Adrenaline boasts some of the group's most explosive work to date, with highlights arriving via "The Army Inside," "I Don't Believe in Tomorrow," and the brooding first single "Trip the Darkness." Melodic and mercurial, immaculate and overwrought, it's not for everybody, but six albums in, Lacuna Coil have proven themselves more than worthy of both the attention of commercial rock radio and the adoration of the progressive metal community.

tags: lacuna coil, dark adrenaline, 2012, flac,

Lacuna Coil - Shallow Life (2009) ☠

Country: Italy
Language: English
Genre: Gothic Metal, Alternative Metal
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 2009 Century Media
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Having sold a few hundred thousand copies of each of their most recent albums in the U.S. alone (quite rarefied levels of unit-shifting for an independent heavy metal label like Century Media), Lacuna Coil was undoubtedly under pressure to deliver another winner while preparing 2009's Shallow Life -- the Italians' fifth full-length in a decade-plus career. With so much riding on the results, a promising preview single called "Spellbound" was released a few months ahead of the album, and it suggested a determined return to the dramatic, if ever concise, brand of goth-metal (tickled by reserved symphonics and electronics) of the band's breakthrough opus, Comalies. But instead, it turned out to be one of just a few exceptions (see also "Not Enough" and "I Like It") amid Shallow Life's concerted push towards ever more accessible, radio-friendly, and, despite the band's best efforts, homogenized electro-rock. For starters, there's the dizzying array of electronics absolutely dousing the album's initial couplet of "Survive" and "I Won't Tell You," and later the vaguely Depeche Mode-like "The Pain" and the title track's tepid balladry, to the point of subduing the higher and most sustained reaches of Cristina Scabbia's vocals -- or else layering them with counterpoint soccer chants in a bid to replicate Karmacode's top single, "Our Truth." And then there's the prevalent guitar tone utilized throughout, which will have listeners scrambling for their CD booklets to see if nu-metal's most infamous producer, Ross Robinson, was involved in the sessions. He wasn't, but most all of his trademark textures sure were (see the particularly painful "The Maze"), courtesy of his disciple Don Gilmore, who is best known for his work with Linkin Park and certainly earned his paycheck for these sessions if the directive was transforming Lacuna Coil into Evanescence. The primary conclusion being that songwriting versatility alone does not risk-taking music make, if those disparate elements have all of their edges sanded down, rather than serrated enough to leave indelible scars on the listener's memory banks. (Having said that, we should mention the gorgeous, densely orchestrated ballad, "Wide Awake," which will hardly convince the extreme metal masses to lay down their torches, but definitely harks back to Lacuna's most celebrated releases.) In all fairness, Shallow Life, does come on very much as expected based on Lacuna Coil's preceding career arc, and many observers would argue that backtracking isn't the solution either if a band is to prosper in the long run -- but it may have to be here, given the underwhelming sales and vociferous critical backlash bestowed upon the album.

tags: lacuna coil, shallow life, 2009, flac,

Redd Kross - Researching The Blues (2012) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock, Power Pop
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 2012 Merge Records
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra
After Jeff and Steven McDonald reconvened Redd Kross in 2006 (with the late-'80s line-up of guitarist Robert Hecker and drummer Roy McDonald), they seemed content to play the occasional festival show or short tour. For Redd Kross fans waiting for more music, it looked like 1997's Show World might be it as far as new albums went. The brothers had a trick up their sleeve, though, and in 2012 they released Researching the Blues, a self-produced album that not only continues their stellar recorded legacy but gives it an electric boost. Not only is it their best-sounding album yet, totally alive and raw, but it contains some of the hookiest songs and most thrilling performances of their almost-35-year career in rock & roll. Not that the brothers are all that old, but it sure sounds like they've tapped into some secret fountain of youth. Jeff McDonald's voice sounds exactly like it always has, maybe even better; the band plays with a fire that any band made up of 20-year-olds would be lucky to tap into, and most of the songs have instant classic status. The hard rock songs like "Researching the Blues" and "Uglier" have the thunderous force that you'd expect from the group, but the best part of the album is the sweet and light power pop songs that form its core. "One of the Good Ones" bops along happily like a mid-period Beatles song, "Dracula's Daughter" is a lovely ballad that shows off the brother's always strong harmony vocals, "Winter Blues" is a chiming folk-rock tune that has an amped-up Byrds influence, and "Meet Frankenstein" has an amazing vocal melody that McCartney would be proud to call his own. It's always been easy to overlook the romantic nature of the band that ran underneath the loud guitars and outfits, but it's always been there and it proudly steps to the front on Researching. The more cynical listeners may call it a mellowing, but that discounts the passion, energy, and power the band invest in the album. In fact, based on how hooky the songs are, how thrilling the performances are, and how great it all sounds, this may be the band's best record yet. If only every band that came back from years of inactivity, came back this strong.

tags: redd kross, red, researching the blues, 2012, flac,

Pussy Galore - Right Now! (1987) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Punk Rock
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☠: Selected by Buccaneer
© 1987 Product Inc.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Cook
Making their intentions clear with the indescribably manic garage stomper "Pig Sweat," which kicks off this 1987 album, Pussy Galore proceeds to mash it up dumpster style with 19 minimal short players riddled with the best elements from the Stooges, the Cramps, and the band's own askew, Lower East Side world view. Immensely satisfying and generally disturbing, too, the band delivers a surprising range of moods in the midst of the monolithic beats, out-of-focus production, and pervasive punk snarl; the mix veers from the Velvets-like rockabilly thrash heard on "Biker Rock" and the hard, psychedelic slab of "Loser," to a handful of Sonic Youth and Fall knockoffs. With Jon Spencer spewing epileptic vocals all over the place, Neil Hagerty and Julie Cafritz doing their garage guitar best (or worst), and Bob Bert hurling his mess of trashcan drumming into the mix, Pussy Galore hits new heights of lo-fi fuzz minimalism on this crucial, yet often overlooked, entry into the late-'80s, proto-grunge free-for-all.

tags: pussy galore, right now, right now album, 1987, flac,

Redd Kross - Phaseshifter (1993) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1993 This Way Up/Mercury Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Cook
On Phaseshifter, Redd Kross has stripped away many of the '60s and '70s pop-culture trappings that figured prominently on earlier recordings (covers of Brady Bunch and Charles Manson songs, for instance). As a result, the band (led by brothers Jeffrey and Steven McDonald) have brought their strong melodic sense, psychedelic punk/metal mix, and fine harmonies to the fore on standout tracks like "Lady in the Front Row" and "Monolith." The brothers' '70s-TV obsession certainly hasn't disappeared, though, as evidenced by songs like "After School Special" and the Partridge Family-inspired cut "Dumb Angel" (Susan Dey being replaced here by keyboardist Gere Fennelly); but they seem more bent on cutting straightforward and driving, power pop/rock anthems than going in for their '80s-style, HR Pufnstuf form of garage psychedelia, and even the paisley is conspicuously missing, replaced by t-shirts and jeans. Is the shift due in part to the pervasive influence of grunge and Nirvana? Maybe. But one should remember that, as early as 1980, Redd Kross was incorporating the same Black Flag, hardcore stylings that Cobain and company were admittedly inspired by. It doesn't really matter, though, since this album stands on it own just fine, especially considering the inclusion of one of the band's best rockers ("Crazy World") and most rewarding pop tunes ("Pay for Love").

tags: red, redd kross, phaseshifter, 1993, flac,