July 31, 2019

Throwing Muses - The Real Ramona (1991) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1991 Sire, Warner Bros. Records
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares
The Real Ramona marked the perfect balance of Throwing Muses' angular songwriting and latent pop tendencies. Where Hunkpapa tried, somewhat unsuccessfully, to mix these elements, this album succeeds with surreal pop songs like "Counting Backwards" and "Red Shoes." They're catchy and riveting, clearly linked to the band's early material yet more focused and accessible. "Graffiti" and "Two-Step" are two of Kristin Hersh's most appealing pop snippets, but dark, uncompromising tracks like "Say Goodbye," "Ellen West," and "Hook in Her Head" reaffirm that she can still write troubling, fascinating songs like nobody else. And just before she left the Muses to form Belly, Tanya Donelly finally arrived as a full-fledged songwriter with the giddy, gleeful "Not Too Soon" and "Honeychain," proving that she could be a charming foil to Hersh's more challenging style. Their final album as a quartet, The Real Ramona highlights the best points of the group's sound, making it a great starting point for new Throwing Muses fans.

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Throwing Muses - University (1995) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1995 Sire, Warner Bros Records
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares
Possibly their finest album, Throwing Muses' fifth album, University, blends the rock power of Red Heaven, their first effort as a trio, with the shiny, surreal pop of The Real Ramona. The result is a collection of songs, like the album opener, "Bright Yellow Gun," that are as ferociously kinetic as they are insinuatingly melodic. At first, Tanya Donelly's departure from the group might have been seen as a liability, but on this dreamy yet direct album, it's an asset: it gives Kristin Hersh room for her most wide-ranging collection of songs yet. "Start," "Hazing," "Shimmer," and "Teller" are some of her most immediate, deceptively sweet punk-pop confections, rivalling previous Muses classics like "Counting Backwards" in their hooky intensity. Yet the delicate "Crabtown" and "Fever Few" reaffirm Hersh's finesse with brooding, folky melodies. "That's All You Wanted" and "Snakeface" remain two of the Muses' catchiest songs, and the driven "No Way in Hell" and "Flood" show that Hersh hasn't lost any of her edge. University's smooth, streamlined production adds a bit of sheen to Hersh's jagged, elliptical guitar lines and keening vocals, but doesn't rob either of its impact; if anything, the album's polish just heightens its flowing yet diverse sound. The album the Muses had been trying to make since Hunkpapa, University is as hypnotic as it is accessible.

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Acroma - Orbitals (2003) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Post Grunge
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 2003 Republic/Universal Records
AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus
Orbitals is the debut album from Salt Lake City's Acroma. Mixing the heavy grandeur of Tool with Live's soul-searching pop and gluing it all together with a dulling, post-grunge lacquer, Acroma has been primed to make waves in a heavy alternative scene that finds itself in flux.
Led by the soaring vocals of Jeremy Stanley, Acroma also includes guitarist Brian Christensen, bassist Tom Collins, and drummer Joshua Zirbel. Originally known as No Release, the Acroma name emerged somewhere between the band's signing with Universal (on the strength of a three-song demo and influential word-of-mouth) and the arrival of Orbitals. Produced and mixed by Sylvia Massey Shivy (Tool), Acroma owes a serious debt to that band, especially on "Don't Think Just Move" and "Orbitals," and recalls the Tool side project A Perfect Circle on ("Wash Away [Some Desert Night].") While Stanley emotes, the band lays down a mid-tempo groove heavy on acoustic/electric guitar dynamics; busy, splash-flavored percussion; and a liberal dose of studio trickery that adds vocal programming, spacy sound effects, and subtle synthesizer washes. While Acroma is as obvious in its influences as many heavy alternative groups of the past few years, its sound aims for grandiosity over bombast, which might signal a shift in a genre that's in dire need of something fresh. At the same time, Acroma's atmospheric flights of fancy (the churning metal of "Motive" downshifts into a weird, swirling desert soliloquy) and significant reliance on production -- not to mention their amorphous name change and Orbitals' bland cover art -- suggest Acroma might be caught up in its label's scramble for success. Sure, the quartet can be alterna-metal if you want them to be. But if the heavy alternative gravy train derails, Acroma could fit into any number of other genres.
Behind the sheen of Orbitals' production, and a tendency for the over-dramatic that's typical of a young group, Acroma does have some solid talent. The unlisted, unnamed ninth track is an acoustic standout, and the single "Sun Rises Down" perfectly aligns each part of what the quartet does best. But label conniving aside, the guys in Acroma might need another album to figure out exactly what they want their band to be. Just as Live didn't really hit its stride until Throwing Copper -- after the promise of its debut -- Stanley's pensive lyrics ("There's a garden in your eyes/All I want is paradise," from the anthem "Big Karma Now") are too often histrionic when they aim for poetic. Similarly, Christensen's guitar work can be too technical to appeal to an audience who likes its heavy alternative spiked with punk bar chords, yet not meaty enough to reach fans of more intense outfits like Disturbed. It's a problem Acroma will have to work out on its own, since the industry too easily shoehorns young bands into the latest or greatest shape to come along.

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Dinosaur Jr. - Hand It Over (1997) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Post Grunge
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1997 Reprise Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Bouncing back from the staid Without a Sound, J Mascis turns in his most eclectic album since Green Mind with Dinosaur Jr.'s Hand It Over. Dinosaur's bedrock sound hasn't changed -- it's still a sprawling, electric mess of hard rock filtered through folk-rock song structures -- but Mascis plays with the arrangements, adding strings, trumpets, and on a handful of tracks, My Bloody Valentine's slippery guitar orchestrations and vocals (Kevin Shields and Bilinda Butcher both sing on the album). These additions make the music sound fresh, but they would only be window dressing if Mascis' songs weren't as strong as they are. Again, his progressions are subtle, but songs like "I Don't Think," "Nothin's Goin' On," "Can't We Move This," and "Sure Not Over You" are fine additions to his catalog, and help make Hand It Over one of Dinosaur Jr.'s most consistent and best records.

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Dinosaur Jr. - Green Mind (1991) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1991 Sire, Warner Bros. Records
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett
After temporarily suspending the band, J Mascis first snuck out "The Wagon" as a Sub Pop single, then a little while later released the group's first major-label album, Green Mind. More of a solo project than a group effort -- Lou Barlow was out and then some, Murph only drums on three tracks, a few guests pop up here and there -- it's still a great album, recorded and performed with gusto. Such a judgment may seem strange given Mascis' legendary image as the überslacker, but clearly the man knows how to balance how to convey himself with getting the job done. "The Wagon" itself kicks off the album, an even quicker and nuttier sequel to the peerless "Freak Scene" -- Don Fleming of Gumball fame adds some of the music and background vocals, but otherwise it's Mascis and Murph cranking it and having a blast. When Mascis goes into one of his patented over-the-top solos, it all feels just right -- this is loud rock music for putting a smile on your face, not beating up people in a pit. The remainder of the album floats and rumbles along in its uniquely Dinosaur Jr. type of way, as apt to find poppy hooks, singalongs, and soft strumming as it is to blow out the Marshalls. Sublime moments include the contrast of sweet acoustic guitar and loud drums on "Blowing It," the fun thrash of "How'd You Pin That One on Me," and the Mellotron-as-flute-tinged stomp "Thumb." If nothing on the album is completely as freaked-out and over the top as "Don't" from Bug, it's still a fine translation of Mascis' art for the commercial big boys. The song titles alone sometime say it all -- "Puke + Cry," "I Live for That Look," "Muck." Mascis throughout sounds like his usual self, cracked drawl ever as it was and shall be.

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Dinosaur Jr. - Without a Sound (1994) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock, Post Grunge
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1994 Sire, Reprise Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
J Mascis fired longtime drummer Murph before the recording of Without a Sound, which came as a surprise to Murph. Naturally, the change in personnel hasn't changed Dinosaur Jr.'s sound much; the only difference between Without a Sound and Where You Been is a more pronounced country leaning (particularly on the album's high point, the rollicking "I Don't Think So") and shorter, more concise performances. What hasn't changed are the overpowering fuzz tones of Mascis' guitar, which tend to hide his more expressive vocals; it also makes digging out the gems on this album a little more difficult than necessary.

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July 30, 2019

Throwing Muses - House Tornado (1988)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Pop Rock, Indie Rock
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© 1988 Sire Records
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares
On their second album and first major-label release, Throwing Muses apply more polish, craft, and melody to the challenging style they forged on their debut. The pop sheen on songs like "Colder" and "Saving Grace" makes their sudden dynamic shifts and tempo changes more accessible without dulling them. Kristin Hersh finds ways to mold her complex music into more straightforward song structures, particularly on "Juno" and "Run Letter." Tanya Donelly develops her own songwriting voice with "River" and "Giant," though both songs still feel like self-conscious attempts to blend with Hersh's material. "Marriage Tree" and "Mexican Women" flesh out the Muses' unique take on country-tinged post-punk; "Saving Grace" and "Walking in the Dark" are two of the group's best stream-of-consciousness meditations. House Tornado isn't quite as wild a ride as Throwing Muses' debut, but the album does prove that the band could expand on its unique sound without sacrificing any originality.

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Throwing Muses - Hunkpapa (1989)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Pop Rock, Indie Rock
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© 1989 Sire Records
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares
On their third album, Hunkpapa, Throwing Muses' volatility settled into a jangly, angular style of college rock. Not quite as riveting as Throwing Muses or House Tornado and not quite as accessible as the band's later albums, Hunkpapa finds the Muses in transition; most of the album's songs just aren't as focused or powerful as their other work. The over-produced sound robs promising songs like "Santa Claus," "Fall Down," and "Devil's Roof" of their immediacy, and tracks like "No Parachutes" and "I'm Alive" sound like rejected songs from House Tornado. However, Hunkpapa isn't a total loss: the wild, desolate "Bea" and harrowing "Mania" put rock muscle behind the wildness of the Muses' early work, resulting in two of their best songs. Tanya Donelly's "Dragonhead" and "Angel" continue her growth as a pop songwriter; though it's reported to be one of her least favorite Muses songs, Kristin Hersh's "Dizzy" proves that she can write relatively straightforward pop songs as well as anguished, complex ones. Though Hunkpapa is somewhat disappointing, the album's best moments rank among Throwing Muses' finest work.

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Bullet Lavolta - Swandive (1992)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Punk Rock, Grunge
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© 1992 RCA/BMG Records
AllMusic Review by Bradley Torreano
Before emo became a genre of music in the mid-'90s, Bullet LaVolta was opening the doors for their future contemporaries. Songs like "My Protector" rage with an emotional power rarely found in hardcore at the time. "Blizzard" sounds like early Mudhoney, and "Before I Fall" is like a happy (or at least a less unhappy) Fugazi. There are moments where the music almost sounds like heavy metal, which is exactly how the record company promoted the album at the time. Producer Dave Jerden pushes the drums and rhythm guitar to the forefront, emphasizing the metal elements. But singer Yukki Gipe has an emotive, angry voice that gives the music substantial depth, and guitarists Clay Tarver and Duke Roth have a tight sound that never relies on mindless riffing. Swandive is an important work that never really got its due, and fans of modern emo may want to search out this album because it really did open up the market for like-minded artists

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Fight - K5: The War of Words Demos (2007) ⚓

*U.K. pressing. Contains 16 tracks total.

Country: U.S.A./United Kingdom
Genre: Heavy Metal, Groove Metal
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© 2007 Metal God Entertainment
AllMusic Review by Greg Prato
When Rob Halford left Judas Priest after the Painkiller tour had wrapped up, word spread that his next project would focus more on the "power metal" sounds of such acts as Pantera. And this certainly proved to the case with Halford's next project, Fight, and their in-your-face debut from 1993, War of Words. By the early 21st century, Halford would be back with Priest, but with War of Words picking up a cult following with metal fans over the years, several Fight-related releases reared their head in 2007 and 2008: War of Words: The Film, the box set "Into the Pit," and K5: The War of Words -- Demos. As its title states, the latter release collects demos of the tracks that would later be re-recorded for Fight's debut album, and also mixes in a few new tracks recorded especially for this release. Such War of Words classics as "Into the Pit" and "Nailed to the Gun" prove that they were already quite vicious and slamming in the early stages, while such new tracks as "Now You Die" and "Beast Denies" prove that Fight could easily pick up precisely where they left off if they decide to reconvene in the future.

tags: fight, k5 the war of words demos, 2007, flac,

July 28, 2019

Saigon Kick - Devil In The Details (1995)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 1995 CMC International Records
AllMusic Review by Greg Prato
Perhaps due to the fact that their breakthrough hit was an acoustic ballad and they weren't afraid to embark on a musical detour from time to time, Saigon Kick seemed to go over the heads of many metalheads -- despite the fact that the majority of their repertoire was metallic. By 1995's Devil in the Details, guitarist Jason Bieler was firmly in the driver's seat, as this was the second album on which he did double duty as the group's lead singer. And once more, Devil in the Details turned out to be a varied album that brings to mind Extreme, King's X, and Queen. Another sweet and sappy acoustic ditty is included ("Spanish Rain"), as well as an old-tyme pop tune ("Victoria") and the expected headbanging rockers ("Killing Ground"). Fans of the band's first few albums will dig it, but it appeared as though rock radio circa the mid-'90s was as far removed as you could possibly get from Saigon Kick's brand of all-encompassing rock.

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Michael Monroe - Peace of Mind (1996) ☠

*Finnish first pressing. Contains 10 tracks total.
Country: Finland
Language: English
Genre: Hard Rock
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1996 Poko Rekords
Review by Metal Storm.net
After the self-titled debut album of Demolition 23 Michael Monroe managed to disband them for several reasons and moved back to Finland to refresh his mind and work on his new album. "Peace Of Mind" is the ideal title for the album and Michael Monroe, with the help of Judy Wilder, composed most of it, without forgetting to present in the most appropriate way some fabulous covers on older and beloved glam compositions.

This album was very important for Michael Monroe since this is the first time he performs almost every instrument on the compositions, handling all the guitars, except for some passages played by Olli Hilden. All I can say is that, except for a wonderful singer, he's a fabulous guitar player as well, interpreting in the most appropriate way the inspired guitar riffing that has either a hard rock or a more glam/punk approach, depending on the moment. The sensational sound of the saxophone and the drunken harmonica melodies are present for one more time, inspired as always, unfolding another talent of Michael Monroe that is present since his Hanoi Rocks days. Jimmy Clarke worked on the drumming of "Peace Of Mind" offering some wonderful groovy and rhythm-keeping drumming, pacing wonderfully with Monroe's bass lines, lending on the album the appropriate rock n' roll pulse.

What is really remarkable is that this time Monroe got total control of the album, handling the production of "Peace Of Mind" as well, showing that he can deal with the sound of a record in production terms really well offering some rolling and good sound! "Peace Of Mind" is a big achievement for Monroe since he proved that he can handle much more than he imagined in his personal career and pour his soul much more in the compositions without any limitations! The album is good, it's not better than albums like "Whatcha Want", "Nights Are So Long" etc but it's definitely a strong work that won't disappoint the fans of this wonderful glam Finnish persona!

It was released in Scandinavia during 1996 consisting of 10 compositions, but it didn't see the light of day in the whole Europe before 1999, but I think this second version of the album paid back well the European audience since it had to offer two bonus tracks as well, with Stiv Bator's (Dead Boys) appearance on them. Some highlights out of "Peace Of Mind" have to be the just perfect "Always Right", the rolling "Where's The Fire John?", the wonderful cover on MC5's "Kick Out The Jams", the upbeat "Rentfree" and the two bonus-tracks, the sensational and rolling "I Wanna Be With You" and the fragile ballad "It's A Lie".

Michael Monroe fans should proceed one way or another, just enjoy!

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D.A.D. - Everything Glows (2000) ☠

Country: Denmark
Language: English
Genre: Hard Rock
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 2000 Medley Records
AllMusic Review by Greg Prato
In the late 1980s, with pop-metal in full swing, some crafty record companies looked outside of the U.S. to try to find the next big band, that hopefully, would do battle with the likes of Mötley Crüe and Bon Jovi for high Stateside chart placement. Denmark's contribution to the cause was D-A-D, whose success in the U.S. was fleeting, when their 1989 album, No Fuel Left for the Pilgrims, created a minor buzz among hair-sprayed headbangers. But the group has continued rocking & rolling ever since as they retained a sizable fanbase back home, as evidenced by the arrival of their seventh studio album overall 2000's, Everything Glows. The group still follows their sonic approach of yesteryear on certain tunes, especially such metal-dipped-in-sleaze ditties as "Road Below Me" and "Evil Twin," as well as a song title that even Andrew Dice Clay may deem as a bit too suggestive to include on an album ("Kiss Between the Legs"). Elsewhere, D-A-D lets a bit of roots rock into their sound ("Candy Bar," "As Common As," etc.), which shows the group is not as one-dimensional as some of the other similarly styled bands of the aforementioned "pretty boy" era.

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D.A.D. - Soft Dogs (2002) ☠

Country: Denmark
Language: English
Genre: Hard Rock, Alternative Rock
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 2002 Medley Records
*No professional reviews available for this release.

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Mindstorm - Mindstorm (1987) ☠

Country: Canada
Language: English
Genre: Hard Rock
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1987 Barricade Records
*No professional reviews available for this release.

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Enuff Z'nuff - Enuff Z'nuff (1989) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hard Rock
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1989 ATCO Records
AllMusic Review by Michael Frey
Often overlooked because of their role in the ill-fated hair-metal craze of the late '80s, Enuff Z'nuff actually shares more common ground with power-pop luminaries Cheap Trick and Badfinger than with the lipstick-and-leather crowd. Their self-titled major label debut boasts one of the best power-pop singles of the late '80s with "New Thing," which features Donnie Vie's raspy vocals set against a backdrop of whimsical guitar-powered melody. "For Now" captures more of the same magic that makes "New Thing" so refreshing, while "Fly High Michelle" reveals the band's fondness for psychedelic ballads. The contemplative "I Could Never Be Without You" shows a serious streak that offsets the obviously lighthearted approach of boisterous tracks like "Hot Little Summer Girl" and "Kiss the Clown." Where Enuff Z'nuff falters is their tendency to let songs get bogged down by excessive guitar ramblings. The nearly seven-minute long "In the Groove" falls victim to this unfortunate fate, sputtering and failing to ever really get off the ground. Overall, the good far exceeds the bad on this impressive debut, proving that Enuff Z'nuff deserves more respect than they'll probably ever receive.

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Saigon Kick - Saigon Kick (1991) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hard Rock
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1991 Atlantic/Third Stone Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Saigon Kick's biggest problem musically and visually, was not knowing whether they wanted to be Jane's Addiction or Def Leppard. The band tries desperately to please everyone and though they obviously fail, their 1991 eponymous debut still features very inspired songwriting and some amazing chops from guitarist Jason Bieler. In short, the record offers everything from U2-styled, socially-conscious rock ("Colors" to "Come Take Me Now"), raucous punk ("What do You Do," "Acid Rain"), ponderous pop ballads ("Love of God"), and even a couple of hilarious pop ditties: the neurotic "My Life" and the homo-erotic "Down by the Ocean." Mostly, however, the group shells out numerous heavy metal varieties, including classics ("Coming Home," "Ugly"), a "bad pop MTV submission" ("What You Say"), and even some Eastern-flavored, trance metal ("New World"). Whew!

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Saigon Kick - The Lizard (1992)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 1992 Atlantic/Third Stone Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Saigon Kick's guitarist and general mastermind Jason Bieler may have bitten off a little more than he could chew when he decided to produce the band's inconsistent second album, 1992's The Lizard. Like its predecessor, the record is a schizophrenic mess, ranging from brilliance to mediocrity in the wink of an eye. In the first category, we find the fabulous metal riffage of "Hostile Youth," Peppermint Tribe," and the title track; the alterna-rock of "God of 42nd Street" and "Feel the Same Way"; and the beautiful acoustic ballad (and minor MTV hit), "Love is on the Way." In the second, we encounter the bulk of the record, including pointless instrumentals ("Cruelty," "Sleep"), faceless metal work-outs ("Freedom," "My Dog"), silly pop ditties ("Chanel"), and so on. For fans only.

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Saigon Kick - Water (1993)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 1993 Atlantic/Third Stone Records
AllMusic Review by Brian Downing
Water is another fine album by Saigon Kick that unfortunately undermines its own merits by trying to employ too many sounds at once. The same problem plagued Saigon Kick's first two releases, as the bandmembers hedged their bets while trying to embrace the dying metal scene as well as the embryonic alternative one at the same time. The band presents a dizzying array of stylistic shifts in the course of 14 songs, changing from alternative to punk, pop, metal, and ballads at the drop of a hat. The group most resembles Jane's Addiction for the majority of the album, although it offers a nifty cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity" done with a real Mick Ronson flair. In a way, the album resembles a very scaled-down version of Smashing Pumpkins' Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. However, Saigon Kick wasn't as adept at this approach and the record, while solid, is too schizophrenic to leave much of a lasting impression. Eclecticism has been a hallmark of good rock since Revolver, and in the right hands this approach can be a welcome relief from artists who rewrite one song for their whole careers. However, Saigon Kick overdoes it and can't quite pull it off. It's definitely better than the band's alleged hair metal roots would indicate, but Greatest Mrs.: The Best of Saigon Kick would be a better overall choice for most.

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