November 29, 2016

HIM - Greatest Lovesongs Vol. 666 (1997) ☠

Country: Finland
Language: English
Genre: Gothic Rock
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1997 Terrier
AllMusic Review by Antti J. Ravelin
You wouldn't expect a lot from a band whose debut album is entitled Greatest Lovesongs, Vol. 666, but H.I.M. surprises in a very positive way. H.I.M.'s stigma of so-called "love metal" is actually undeserved and relates only to Ville Valo's love-oriented lyrics; the music itself combines metal with '80s rock and some goth influences, and the album as a whole has a very diverse sound. Songs such as "The Beginning of the End" and "It's All Tears" especially prove that H.I.M. can do a lot better than their poor single track "When Love and Death Embrace." Two cover songs on a nine-track debut album might be too much, but Ville Valo seems to beg the difference. In fact, H.I.M.'s versions of Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game" and Blue Öyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper" are very idiosyncratic and fit very well on Greatest Lovesongs, Vol. 666. "Wicked Game," especially, is somehow even better than Isaak's original version, or at least it proves that H.I.M. does have a sense for dynamics instead of playing just quiet or loud, which is pretty typical of H.I.M.'s contemporaries. "Don't Fear the Reaper" intriguingly reduces the volume at the end of the album and the female vocals and piano add hopeful tenderness. Greatest Lovesongs, Vol. 666 succeeds in pleasing everyone, whether they're into rock or pop.

tags: him, h.i.m., greatest lovesongs vol 666, 1997, flac,

November 26, 2016

Pink Floyd - A Momentary Lapse of Reason (1987)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Progressive Rock
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© 1987 EMI Records
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
A David Gilmour solo album in all but name, heavily featuring the kind of atmospheric instrumental music and Gilmour guitar sound typical of the Floyd before the now-departed Roger Waters took over, but lacking Waters' unifying vision and lyrical ability.

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Pink Floyd - The Wall (1979)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Progressive Rock
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© 1979-1984 Harvest Records
AllMusic Review by Rovi Staff
The Wall was Roger Waters' crowning accomplishment in Pink Floyd. It documented the rise and fall of a rock star (named Pink Floyd), based on Waters' own experiences and the tendencies he'd observed in people around him. By then, the bassist had firm control of the group's direction, working mostly alongside David Gilmour and bringing in producer Bob Ezrin as an outside collaborator. Drummer Nick Mason was barely involved, while keyboardist Rick Wright seemed to be completely out of the picture. Still, The Wall was a mighty, sprawling affair, featuring 26 songs with vocals: nearly as many as all previous Floyd albums combined. The story revolves around the fictional Pink Floyd's isolation behind a psychological wall. The wall grows as various parts of his life spin out of control, and he grows incapable of dealing with his neuroses. The album opens by welcoming the unwitting listener to Floyd's show ("In the Flesh?"), then turns back to childhood memories of his father's death in World War II ("Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 1"), his mother's over protectiveness ("Mother"), and his fascination with and fear of sex ("Young Lust"). By the time "Goodbye Cruel World" closes the first disc, the wall is built and Pink is trapped in the midst of a mental breakdown. On disc two, the gentle acoustic phrasings of "Is There Anybody Out There?" and the lilting orchestrations of "Nobody Home" reinforce Floyd's feeling of isolation. When his record company uses drugs to coax him to perform ("Comfortably Numb"), his onstage persona is transformed into a homophobic, race-baiting fascist ("In the Flesh"). In "The Trial," he mentally prosecutes himself, and the wall comes tumbling down. This ambitious concept album was an across-the-board smash, topping the Billboard album chart for 15 weeks in 1980. The single "Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2" was the country's best-seller for four weeks. The Wall spawned an elaborate stage show (so elaborate, in fact, that the band was able to bring it to only a few cities) and a full-length film. It also marked the last time Waters and Gilmour would work together as equal partners.

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Iced Earth - The Dark Saga (Limited Edtion) (1996)

*U.K. & European pressing. 
Contains 1 bonus track and 11 tracks total.

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Heavy Metal, Thrash Metal
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© 1996 Century Media
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
As the cover artwork would suggest, Iced Earth's fourth album, 1996's The Dark Saga, is a concept album based on the popular Todd MacFarlane comic book series Spawn. Though most of the album poses the band in an uncommonly laid-back, non-thrashy mood, the songwriting of leader and guitarist Jon Schaffer is at an all-time inspirational high. In fact the band knocks out both the title track and the excellent "I Died for You" before the furious "Violate" provides the first taste of a double kick drum. Versatile singer Matthew Barlow is impressive throughout but the remarkable interplay between Schaffer and lead guitarist Randall Shawver is the album's true highlight, most notably on the dual harmonies of "The Hunter." Some of the momentum is lost with "The Suffering," a three-song suite that tends to plod along at times, but overall this is a strong album, and one of the band's best.

November 25, 2016

Metallica - S&M (1999)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Thrash Metal, Heavy Metal
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              *****
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© 1999 Vertigo Records
AllMusic Review by Gina Boldman
After 1988's ...And Justice for All, Metallica pared down its progressive, heavy metal sound. During the '90s, the band's studio releases grew slicker and more produced, resulting in mostly radio-friendly, good ol' boy metal. By the end of the decade, Metallica was established as the pioneer of modern metal, but the band hadn't done anything innovative, arguably, in ten years. In April 1999, the group performed two concerts with the San Francisco Symphony, and the result was S&M, a two-disc collection of the concerts. Overall, the album successfully pairs violin strings with guitar strings, but it's no surprise that the best tracks here are the older songs; their multi-layered, compositional style works well with symphonic arrangements. "Master of Puppets," "Call of the Ktulu," "One," and "For Whom the Bell Tolls" sound richer and fuller with violin, trumpet, clarinet, harp, trombone, and flute accompaniments, but "Sad but True," "Devil's Dance," and especially "Of Wolf and Man" range from haphazard and melodramatic to uninspired. S&M definitely has its moments, and not just with the pre-Black Album material: "Fuel" surpasses the furious pumping energy of the studio version, "Hero of the Day" stays poignant throughout, and "Until It Sleeps" has a wonderfully sinister feel. James Hetfield maintains his madman persona from beginning to end, laughing maniacally and grunting and growling at all the right moments. Overall, the symphony adds a macabre, ghoulish atmosphere -- it all sounds like a Broadway freak show or a revved-up Danny Elfman nightmare. Which is exactly what a Metallica album should sound like, even if every song isn't the best (or most appropriate) in the band's catalog.

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T.T. Quick - Sloppy Seconds (1989)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 1989-1992 Halycon Recording Corporation
*No professional reviews available for this release.

tags: tt quick, sloppy seconds, 1989, flac,

November 24, 2016

P!nk - Can't Take Me Home (2000)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: R&B
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© 2000 LaFace Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
It may be hard to listen to Pink's debut album Can't Take Me Home without hearing TLC, specifically their 1999 album Fanmail. After all, L.A. Reid and Babyface were the executive producers for both albums, and they decided to use a skittering, post-jungle rhythm for the bedrock of these savvy, club-ready dance-pop productions -- a sound exploited expertly on TLC's record. If Can't Take Me Home pales next to Fanmail, it's not Pink's fault, nor is it because the album is sub-par; it's simply because it follows in the footsteps of a record that's as close to a modern classic as contemporary soul gets. Judged as its own entity, Pink's debut is quite strong, even if it isn't perfect. The production is masterminded by Babyface and LA Reid, who oversee such producers as Kevin "She'kspere" Briggs, Terence "Tramp-Baby" Abney, Daryl Simmons, and Tricky (not to be confused with the dark trip-hop genius, of course), and throughout this album, their work sparkles, from the deft layers of drum machines to the sultriness of the slow grooves. For the most part, Pink's performances match that production -- she may not be able to deliver ballads with assurance and soul just yet, but she never over-sings. She also not only has an appealing voice, but displays a fair amount of chops. So, with the production and performances in place, that leaves just the songs. While there are no bad cuts on Can't Take Me Home, there aren't any knock-out punches, either. They're all fairly well-crafted, but they're more ingratiating than immediate, and if dance-pop should be anything, it should be indelible upon at least the second listen, if not the first. Many of the songs on Can't Take Me Home need a few spins before they truly sink in, which is a bit unfortunate. Still, it's not the worst situation in the world, either, especially since a lot of the tunes actually do make an impression with repeated plays. So, Can't Take Me Home doesn't really escape many of the pitfalls of a debut, but thanks to LA Reid and Babyface's production and Pink's engaging talents, it's a promising first effort all the same.

tags: p!nk, pink, cant take me home, 2000, flac,

November 19, 2016

Deep Purple - Abandon (1998)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 1998 CMC International Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Deep Purple continued cranking out new albums into the late '90s, despite diminished audiences and little attention from the media. But as long as they continued to satisfy their hardcore fans, those factors didn't matter; Abandon should satisfy those fans. Granted, the band isn't as young and energetic as they once were, but they are willing to try new material, which can't be said about other aging hard rockers from the '70s. The addition of guitarist Steve Morse has revitalized the band and he sounds more a part of the band here than he did on his debut, Purpendicular. Abandon is a harder-rocking album than its predecessor, but there's a number of layers to their rock, as they occasionally stretch into challenging neo-prog territory. But the main thing about the album is that it hits hard and heavy -- harder than any Deep Purple album in recent memory and that makes a welcome revelation for hardcore followers.

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Black Sabbath - Vol. 4 (1972)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Heavy Metal, Doom Metal
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© 1972-1987 Warner Bros. Records
AllMusic Review by Steve Huey
Vol. 4 is the point in Black Sabbath's career where the band's legendary drug consumption really starts to make itself felt. And it isn't just in the lyrics, most of which are about the blurry line between reality and illusion. Vol. 4 has all the messiness of a heavy metal Exile on Main St., and if it lacks that album's overall diversity, it does find Sabbath at their most musically varied, pushing to experiment amidst the drug-addled murk. As a result, there are some puzzling choices made here (not least of which is the inclusion of "FX"), and the album often contradicts itself. Ozzy Osbourne's wail is becoming more powerful here, taking greater independence from Tony Iommi's guitar riffs, yet his vocals are processed into a nearly textural element on much of side two. Parts of Vol. 4 are as ultra-heavy as Master of Reality, yet the band also takes its most blatant shots at accessibility to date -- and then undercuts that very intent. The effectively concise "Tomorrow's Dream" has a chorus that could almost be called radio-ready, were it not for the fact that it only appears once in the entire song. "St. Vitus Dance" is surprisingly upbeat, yet the distant-sounding vocals don't really register. The notorious piano-and-Mellotron ballad "Changes" ultimately fails not because of its change-of-pace mood, but more for a raft of the most horrendously clichéd rhymes this side of "moon-June." Even the crushing "Supernaut" -- perhaps the heaviest single track in the Sabbath catalog -- sticks a funky, almost danceable acoustic breakdown smack in the middle. Besides "Supernaut," the core of Vol. 4 lies in the midtempo cocaine ode "Snowblind," which was originally slated to be the album's title track until the record company got cold feet, and the multi-sectioned prog-leaning opener, "Wheels of Confusion." The latter is one of Iommi's most complex and impressive compositions, varying not only riffs but textures throughout its eight minutes. Many doom and stoner metal aficionados prize the second side of the album, where Osbourne's vocals gradually fade further and further away into the murk, and Iommi's guitar assumes center stage. The underrated "Cornucopia" strikes a better balance of those elements, but by the time "Under the Sun" closes the album, the lyrics are mostly lost under a mountain of memorable, contrasting riffery. Add all of this up, and Vol. 4 is a less cohesive effort than its two immediate predecessors, but is all the more fascinating for it. Die-hard fans sick of the standards come here next, and some end up counting this as their favorite Sabbath record for its eccentricities and for its embodiment of the band's excesses.

tags: black sabbath, vol 4, vol. 4, 1972, flac,

Black Sabbath - Sabotage (1975)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Hard Rock, Heavy Metal
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© 1975-1987 Warner Bros. Records
AllMusic Review by Steve Huey
Sabotage is the final release of Black Sabbath's legendary First Six, and it's also the least celebrated of the bunch, though most die-hard fans would consider it criminally underrated. The band continues further down the proto-prog metal road of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, and this time around, the synthesizers feel more organically integrated into the arrangements. What's more, the song structures generally feel less conventional and more challenging. There's one significant exception in the blatant pop tune "Am I Going Insane (Radio)," which rivals "Changes" as the most fan-loathed song of the glory years, thanks to its synth-driven arrangement (there isn't even a guitar riff!) and oft-repeated one-line chorus. But other than that song and the terrific album opener, "Hole in the Sky," the band largely eschews the standard verse-chorus format, sticking to one or two melody lines per riffed section and changing up the feel before things get too repetitive. The prevalence of this writing approach means that Sabotage rivals Vol. 4 as the least accessible record of Sabbath's glory years. However, given time, the compositional logic reveals itself, and most of the record will burn itself into the listener's brain just fine. The faster than usual "Symptom of the Universe" is a stone-cold classic, its sinister main riff sounding like the first seed from which the New Wave of British Heavy Metal would sprout (not to mention an obvious blueprint for Diamond Head's "Am I Evil?"). Like several songs on the record, "Symptom" features unexpected acoustic breaks and softer dynamics, yet never loses its drive or focus, and always feels like Sabbath. Less immediate but still rewarding are "Thrill of It All," with its triumphant final section, and the murky, sullen "Megalomania," which never feels as long as its nearly nine and a half minutes. But more than the compositions, the real revelation on Sabotage is Ozzy Osbourne, who turns in his finest vocal performance as a member of Black Sabbath. Really for the first time, this is the Ozzy we all know, displaying enough range, power, and confidence to foreshadow his hugely successful solo career. He saves the best for last with album closer "The Writ," one of the few Sabbath songs where his vocal lines are more memorable than Tony Iommi's guitar parts; running through several moods over the course of the song's eight minutes, it's one of the best performances of his career, bar none. Unfortunately, after Sabotage, the wheels of confusion came off entirely. Yes, there were technically two more albums, but for the non-obsessive, the story of Osbourne-era Sabbath effectively ends here.

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Black Sabbath - Technical Ecstasy (1976)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Hard Rock, Heavy Metal
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© 1976-1987 Warner Bros. Records
AllMusic Review by Greg Prato
Black Sabbath was unraveling at an alarming rate around the time of their second to last album with original singer Ozzy Osbourne, 1976's Technical Ecstasy. The band was getting further and further from their original musical path, as they began experimenting with their trademark sludge-metal sound. While it was not as off-the-mark as their final album with Osbourne, 1978's Never Say Die, it was not on par with Sabbath's exceptional first five releases. The most popular song remains the album closer, "Dirty Women," which was revived during the band's highly successful reunion tour of the late '90s. Other standouts include the funky "All Moving Parts (Stand Still)" and the raging opener, "Back Street Kids." The melodic "It's Alright" turns out to be the album's biggest surprise -- it's one of drummer Bill Ward's few lead vocal spots with the band (Guns N' Roses covered the unlikely track on their 1999 live set, Live Era 1987-1993).

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Black Sabbath - Never Say Die! (1978)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Hard Rock, Heavy Metal
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© 1978-1988 Warner Bros. Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
After going their separate ways for a brief period following the emotionally taxing and drug-infested Technical Ecstasy tour, Black Sabbath and singer Ozzy Osbourne reconciled long enough to record 1978's Never Say Die! -- an album whose varied but often unfocused songs perfectly reflected the band's uneasy state of affairs at the time. Even the surprisingly energetic title track, which seemed to kick things off with a promising bang, couldn't entirely mask the group's fading enthusiasm just beneath the surface after a few repeated listens. The same was true of half-hearted performances like "Shock Wave" and "Over to You," and there were several songs on the record that sound strangely disjointed, specifically "Junior's Eyes" and the synthesizer-doused "Johnny Blade" -- as though their creation came in fits and starts, rather than through cohesive band interaction. But when it came to wild, stylistic departures, one's disappointing realization that the lurching, saxophone-led "Breakout" came from -- and then went back to -- absolutely nowhere was easily offset by the stunningly successful oddity that was "Air Dance." Arguably the most experimental song in Black Sabbath's entire canon, this uncharacteristically mild-mannered and effortlessly evocative ballad saw Tony Iommi's normally bullish guitar giving way to simply mesmerizing piano flourishes performed by leading session keyboardist Don Airey. If only it had represented a bold new direction (albeit one that die-hard fans would never have accepted) rather than just another sign of the band's quickly fraying sense of identity, Black Sabbath's original lineup may have found a way to save itself -- but Never Say Die!'s incoherent musical aggregate in fact betrayed the harsh reality that it was indeed too late. So even though those same die-hard Black Sabbath fans and completists will likely find some redeeming value in Never Say Die! after all these years, the original lineup's final gasp will hold little interest to the average heavy metal fan.

tags: black sabbath, never say die, 1978, flac,

November 16, 2016

Various Artists - WWF Forceable Entry (2002)

* U.S. release. This version does not contain the track "Slow Chemical"

Country: U.S.A
Genres: Alternative Rock, Rapcore, Nü-Metal, Industrial Rock, Alternative Metal
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© 2002 Smackdown Records/Columbia
AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus
Forceable Entry features 18 alt.metal, hard rock, and otherwise heavy tracks that double as entrance themes for WWF wrestlers like Stone Cold Steve Austin (Disturbed, "Glass Shatters"), Triple H (Drowning Pool, "The Game"), and Chris Jericho (Sevendust's reference-appropriate "Break the Walls Down"). Marilyn Manson's "Beautiful People" gets an exclusive, more gothically rocking WWF remix; heavy moaners Union Underground's "Move to the Music" serves as the theme for Raw itself. Even federation kingpin Vince McMahon gets into the act, adopting the grinding metal of Dope's "No Chance" as his own. Forceable Entry will be most relevant for wrestling fans. But fans of heavy music -- or anyone curious about Kid Rock covering ZZ Top -- might seek this set out in the local sale bin.

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The Rolling Stones - Let It Bleed (1969)

*First American release in stereo. Original LP was released in 1969 in Mono.

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Rock
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© 1969-1986 ABKCO
AllMusic Review by Richie Unterberger
Mostly recorded without Brian Jones -- who died several months before its release (although he does play on two tracks) and was replaced by Mick Taylor (who also plays on just two songs) -- this extends the rock and blues feel of Beggars Banquet into slightly harder-rocking, more demonically sexual territory. The Stones were never as consistent on album as their main rivals, the Beatles, and Let It Bleed suffers from some rather perfunctory tracks, like "Monkey Man" and a countrified remake of the classic "Honky Tonk Woman" (here titled "Country Honk"). Yet some of the songs are among their very best, especially "Gimme Shelter," with its shimmering guitar lines and apocalyptic lyrics; the harmonica-driven "Midnight Rambler"; the druggy party ambience of the title track; and the stunning "You Can't Always Get What You Want," which was the Stones' "Hey Jude" of sorts, with its epic structure, horns, philosophical lyrics, and swelling choral vocals. "You Got the Silver" (Keith Richards' first lead vocal) and Robert Johnson's "Love in Vain," by contrast, were as close to the roots of acoustic down-home blues as the Stones ever got.

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November 13, 2016

Blink-182 - Cheshire Cat (1994)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop Punk
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© 1994 Cargo Music/Grilled Cheese
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Looking back, it's possible to see the roots of blink-182's tuneful frat punk on Cheshire Cat, but the fact of the matter is, this isn't as good an album as the ones that came later. That doesn't mean it's bad, since it skates by on its impish pranks and brash musicality, but the group is rather scattershot here, hitting the target as often as they miss it. There's enough here to dig into if you're a fan, but you have to be a fan to appreciate it.

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Blink-182 - Neighborhoods (Deluxe Edition) (2011)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop Punk, Pop Rock
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© 2011 DGC Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
So here it is, Neighborhoods, the inevitable reunion album, delivered eight years after blink-182’s last album, six years after Tom DeLonge indulged his U2 worship via Angels & Airwaves, five years after Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker whiled away their time with +44, and two years after the trio re-formed for a tour, igniting the long fuse that led to this sixth blink-182 album. Produced by the three blinkers themselves, Neighborhoods certainly is a different beast than any of the cheerfully snotty early blink-182 albums, as the band picks up the gloomy thread left hanging on its eponymous 2003 album, the one that was connected ever so slightly to “Stay Together for the Kids,” the hit from 2001’s Take Off Your Pants and Jacket that signaled some deeper emotions behind the goofy façade. Very little of that slapstick is retained on Neighborhoods; it’s been replaced by atmospheric echoes stripped from Angels & Airwaves, a pretension from DeLonge that’s given form and a pulse by Barker and Hoppus. Although there’s considerably more momentum -- and hooks! -- on Neighborhoods than either A&A album, this still gets plenty ponderous, taking so many scenic detours that the three-minute songs often seem twice as long. Blink-182 are hardly the first band to equate maturity with prog rock, going so far to cop a good chunk of their themes and artistic aesthetic for Neighborhoods from Rush’s “Subdivisions,” yet it’s far better to hear blink-182 grapple with adolescent angst via the perspective of middle age than vainly attempting to re-create their youth. Perhaps blink could stand to sharpen their words but it’s better that they concentrated on their music, creating a fairly ridiculous yet mildly compelling prog-punk spin on the suburbs here. Guess the hiatus did them some good.

 tags: blink 182, blink-182, neighborhoods, deluxe edition, 2011, flac,

November 12, 2016

Blink-182 - Dude Ranch (1997) ☠

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop Punk
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1997 Cargo/MCA Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
On their third album, Dude Ranch, blink-182 follow in the same path as their first two, turning out 15 tracks of juvenile, adrenaline-fueled punk-pop. Some listeners will find their potty humor ("Dick Lips") somewhat irritating, but the group has written some surprisingly catchy hooks, which might win over skeptics. The songwriting is still a little uneven, but overall, Dude Ranch is an improvement over their first album, Cheshire Cat.

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Blink-182 - Take Off Your Pants & Jacket (2001)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop Punk
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© 2001 MCA Records
AllMusic Review by Darren Ratner
Not too much has changed since we last left blink-182. You might hear the same snap, crackle, and pop that the trio has prided themselves on for almost ten years. There's even the continual cabbage-patch screech of Tom Delonge and support for rampant teen angst. But five albums later, these San Diego natives grab their rosy-cheek punkadelics and add a bit more of a flamboyant, passionate maturation on Take Off Your Pants and Jacket. When Enema of the State leaped onto the charts in 1999, the lyrical direction was 90 percent party-boy mentality, leaving little room for traces of a growth spurt. And while we're still feeling the continual back-drip of tracks from Enema, the fresh plethora of tunes from these rambunctious Toys-R-Us rockers have more purpose than ever. With a fight-for-your-right joviality that's often irresistible, songs like "Anthem Part 2" and "Stay Together for the Kids" house a indomitable school-kid voice where a surging vapor of knockout speed chords meet wrecking-ball percussion. The meanings are bucketed and spilled, with lines like "If we're f*cked up/You're to blame" ("Anthem Part 2"). And forget about escaping lyrics such as, "I'll never talk to you again/Unless your dad 'ill suck me off," which stems from the hilarious, almost brilliant 42-second clash called "Happy Holidays, You Bastard." "First Date" and "Roller Coaster" are only a couple of their tunes that act as therapy for post-pubescent dilemma, also present on previous efforts like Enema and Dude Ranch. Each song about the rotten girlfriend or unhip parent speaks loud and often to the 2000 MTV generation. Nevertheless, the dumped-in-the-amusement-park tone and lyrical progression are sharp, if not entertaining. The band's stint on the Vans Warped Tour, with veteran punksters such as Pennywise and Rancid, has become a supreme outlet for blink-182. Take Off Your Pants is one of their finest works to date, with almost every track sporting a commanding articulation and new-school punk sounds. They've definitely put a big-time notch in the win column.

 tags: blink 182, blink-182,take off your pants and jacket, 2001, flac,

November 11, 2016

Blink-182 - Blink-182 (2003)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop Rock
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© 2003 Geffen Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
There comes a time in every punk's life where he or she has to grow up, or at least acknowledge that maturity is just around the corner. blink-182 put it off for as long as they could, but ten years into their career and two albums after their big breakthrough, 1999's Enema of the State, they decided to make a stab at being grown-ups for their eponymous sixth studio album. As with many self-titled albums, the trio uses this as an attempt to redefine itself, and they have considerably expanded both their sonic template and lyrical outlook on blink-182. They're still rooted in punk-pop, but even songs that stretch no further than that sound are a little darker, a little restless, reflecting the overall mood of the record. In shorthand, this is the record where blink-182 delve into post-punk, opting for some appealingly sullen moodiness, off-kilter hooks, lots of sonic textures, and even a duet with the Cure's Robert Smith. Since the trio is an inherently catchy group, this is a far cry from neo-post-punk groups like Interpol or even the dynamically hooky Hot Hot Heat, but there is a greater variety of sounds on blink-182 than on any of the trio's other albums, and the songwriting is similarly adventurous, alternating punchy, impassioned punk-pop with weirder, atmospheric pieces like "Down" and "I'm Lost Without You." If nothing on the album has the immediate impact of "All the Small Things" -- though the opener, "Feeling This," comes close -- and if, on the whole, blink-182 isn't as bracing or visceral as Dude Ranch or Enema, so be it: there's more to explore on this album than any of their other records. It's an unexpected and welcome maturation from a band that just an album ago seemed permanently stuck in juvenilia.

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Blink-182 - Enema of The State (1999) ☠

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop Punk
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1999 MCA Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
If the title Enema of the State didn't give it away, it should be clear from songs like "Dumpweed," "What's My Age Again?," and "Dysentery Gary" that moving to a major label isn't a sign of maturity for blink-182. "Dammit (Growing Up)," the first single from their third album, Dude Ranch, brought them a wider audience and the attention of major labels, which was just too tempting to resist. They signed with MCA, but the only sign that Enema of the State is a major-label effort is the somewhat cleaner production and the fact that they could afford porn superstar Janine -- all decked out as (surprise!) an enema nurse -- for the album cover. Of course, the lovely Janine is as much an indication as "Going Away to College," a catchy little number that pretty much repeats the narrative of "Dammit": blink-182 is not growing up, no way, no how, nowhere. And that's fine, because few of their peers are quite as blissfully stupid and effortlessly catchy as them. Sure, they might not show the emotional depth of Green Day, but they have good tunes and deliver them in a speedy, punchy fashion. Enema of the State isn't going to change anyone's life -- unless it's the first time a 13-year-old boy has seen Janine -- and it will likely irritate old codgers, but it's a fun record that's better than the average neo-punk release.

tags: blink 182, blink-182, enema of the state, 1999, flac,

TLC - FanMail (1999) ☠

*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: R&B
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1999 LaFace, Arista Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Crazysexycool was one of those records that defined an era. Few records before it combined hip-hop and classic soul songwriting quite as intoxicatingly or gracefully -- the performances and productions were utterly seamless. It would have been difficult to top anyway, but TLC had it doubly bad, since a number of behind-the-scenes problems delayed a sequel for nearly five years. As with any eagerly anticipated record, that follow-up, FanMail, arrived with too many expectations. And initially, it may be disappointing to realize TLC doesn't forge new ground with FanMail, but after a few spins, it settles in that nobody else makes urban soul quite as engaging as this. Not that it was easy to make this record, as the head-spinning list of collaborators indicates. Almost ten producers worked on the record, all trying to replicate the easy, appealing sound of Crazysexycool. And "replicate" is the right word, since there are no new innovations on FanMail, apart from a few lifts from the Timbaland book of tricks. Nevertheless, that may be for the best, since TLC and their army of producers have spent time crafting the songs and productions, turning FanMail into a record that almost reaches the peaks of its predecessor. By the end of the record, it appears that they can do it all -- funky, hip-hop-fueled dance-pop, seductive ballads, and mid-tempo jams -- and they can do it all well. Other groups try to reach these heights, but they don't have the skills or the material to pull it off quite so well. True, the five-year wait felt interminable, and they're now standard-bearers instead of pioneers, but if takes TLC as long to make a sequel to FanMail, so be it -- they have one of the best track records in '90s urban soul.

tags: tlc, fan mail, fanmail, 1999, flac,

TLC - CrazySexyCool (1994) ☠

*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: R&B
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1994 LaFace/Artista Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
On their second album, TLC downplay their overt rap connections, recording a smooth, seductive collection of contemporary soul reminiscent of both Philly soul and Prince, powered by new jack and hip-hop beats. Lisa Lopes contributes the occasional rap, but the majority of CrazySexyCool belongs to Tionne Watkins and Rozonda Thomas. While they aren't the most accomplished vocalists -- they have a tendency to be just slightly off-key -- the material they sing is consistently strong. As the cover of Prince's "If I Was Your Girlfriend" indicates, TLC favor erotic, mid-tempo funk. Yet the group removes any of the psychosexual complexities of Prince's songs, leaving a batch of sexy material that just sounds good, especially the hit singles. Both "Creep" and "Red Light Special" have a deep groove that accentuates the slinky hooks, but it's "Waterfalls," with its gently insistent horns and guitar lines and instantly memorable chorus, that ranks as one of the classic R&B songs of the '90s.

tags: tlc, crazysexycool, crazy sexy cool, 1994, flac,

AC/DC - Highway To Hell (1979) ⚓

Country: Australia
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 1979-1986 Atlantic Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Of course, Highway to Hell is the final album AC/DC recorded with Bon Scott, the lead singer who provided the group with a fair share of its signature sleaze. Just months after its release, Scott literally partied himself to death (the official cause cited as acute alcohol poisoning) after a night of drinking, a rock & roll fatality that took no imagination to predict. In light of his passing, it's hard not to see Highway to Hell as a last testament of sorts, being that it was his last work and all, and if Scott was going to go out in a blaze of glory, this certainly was the way to do it. This is a veritable rogue's gallery of deviance, from cheerfully clumsy sex talk and drinking anthems to general outlandish behavior. It's tempting to say that Scott might have been prescient about his end -- or to see the title track as ominous in the wake of his death -- trying to spill it all out on paper, but it's more accurate to say that the ride had just gotten very fast and very wild for AC/DC, and he was simply flying high. After all, it wasn't just Scott who reached a new peak on Highway to Hell; so did the Young brothers, crafting their monster riffs into full-fledged, undeniable songs. This is their best set of songs yet, from the incessant, intoxicating boogie of "Girls Got Rhythm" to "If You Want Blood (You've Got It)." Some of the credit should also go to Robert John "Mutt" Lange, who gives the album a precision and magnitude that the Vanda & Young LPs lacked in their grimy charm. Filtered through Mutt's mixing board, AC/DC has never sounded so enormous, and they've never had such great songs, and they had never delivered an album as singularly bone-crunching or classic as this until now.

 tags: ac/dc, acdc, ac dc, highway to hell, 1979, flac,