February 29, 2020

Carcass - Reek of Putrefaction (1988)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Goregrind
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© 1988-1994 Earache
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett
The title alone. Anyone taking the lyrical content here even slightly seriously -- and that includes the bandmembers -- clearly needs to be taken away by the nice men in the white jackets. Thoughtfully, complete lyrics are provided -- thus, a verse from "Vomited Anal Tract": "Your vagus implodes, as nausea strikes/Savaging your body in terminal retch/Violent spasms and decaying enzymes/Engulf your throat as you belch." That this or anything else on the album is completely impossible to understand otherwise is part of the insane fun, of course, which is why Carcass is both one of the best and funniest bands around. Musically everything is basically just one step away from Napalm Death's early sound, if even that far, but there's something just that much more engagingly nutty about what Carcass do. It might be the way that Bill Steer's guitar solos sound like they're turning themselves inside out every time he plays one (with blood dripping from exposed musculature and so forth, no doubt). Alternately, it might be how Ken Owen matches early Mick Harris for sheer frazzle with drums played so fast everything sounds more like a wash of static than anything else. Whatever it is, Reek of Putrefaction consists of songs so immediate and there that trying to analyze them in depth is practically impossible -- you accept it and let yourself go from the start or you never ever want to hear anything like it again. There are occasional moments of calm -- "Genital Grinder," which starts things off, begins with a low bass rumble and a great, chunky riff, a smart way to draw folks in before the final slaughter. Top everything off with the barked, whined, and yelped vocals of the threesome in full unintelligible glory, and Reek succeeds thoroughly and completely at what it does.

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Carcass - Symphonies of Sickness (1989) ☠

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Goregrind
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☠: Selected by Buccaneer
© 1989-1990 Combat/Earache Records
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett
If Reek of Putrefaction was one series of brusque, quick, and brute explosions after another, Symphonies of Sickness, as its title indicated, is something of a complex step up. None of the power is lost at all, but thanks to a combination of crisper recording and a desire on the part of the band to stretch things out a bit more -- three- to five-minute-long songs and so forth -- Carcass here play with their enjoyably ugly sound just enough. Thus, hearing a brief stab of synth strings and an actual sense of space in the opening title track might not be too much, but it's still quite a lot in context. But once the vocal growls and a quick, solid riff heralds another hyperspeed section of musical and vocal delivery, Carcass as they were initially known and loved reappear in full effect. Nothing too much changes beyond the slightest of touches throughout Symphonies, but one notable difference is that the lyrics actually sometimes come through, if only just. One of the best bits comes in the middle of "Empathological Necroticism" -- in the middle of detailing another hard day at the office with crushed limbs and general evisceration, the working stiff hero of the piece admits, "Life is hard as a mortuary technician." Given that the guy's problems have to deal with such things as pulped cerebellums mucking up his slab and the problems of rigor mortis, it's hard to disagree with the sentiment. An all-time Carcass highlight comes with the perfectly disgusting second number, "Exhume to Consume," which gives an all-new insight into the joys of grave-robbing and, shall we say, feasting on preserved meat. Then again, ignore the lyric sheet and just go nuts with some of the deepest male vocals ever recorded and overall feedback doom crunch.

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Carcass - Necroticism: Descanting The Insalubrious (1991) ☠

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Death Metal
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☠: Selected by Buccaneer
© 1991 Earache
AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier
As they'd done on their last album, Symphonies of Sickness (1989), Carcass continue to develop and expand their music on Necroticism: Descanting the Insalubrious. They'd begun as a grindcore band -- in fact, one of the first and certainly one of the most influential -- as showcased on their debut album, Reek of Putrefaction (1988). Then came Symphonies, where they stretched out the grindcore of Reek: longer song lengths, more innersong developments, further levels of musical complexity, better production, and so on. This trajectory continues on Necroticism as Carcass break free of grindcore's stylistic limits, crafting expansive songs that ever develop and hark back musically to early-'90s thrash (Ă  la Megadeth circa Rust in Peace [1990] particularly). Necroticism, however, is a death metal album through and through, make no mistake. It may lean toward thrash as much as it does grindcore, but it's still awfully damn ferocious. Jeff Walker spews out his septic vocals in a manner sure to send children and grandparents fleeing, and his lyrics are just as medically jargonistic as ever, though a bit toned down in terms of shock value. Moreover, the band adds a second guitarist, Michael Amott, who frees up Bill Steer to solo more often and play more elaborately, which makes Necroticism very much a guitar album, more so than anything Carcass had recorded to date, and which elevates Steer to center stage, where he showcases precisely how much he'd grown as a musician since his days in Napalm Death. Necroticism ultimately is the crossroad between Carcass' seminal grindcore (i.e., Reek, Symphonies) and their latter-day, more straightforward death metal (Heartwork [1994], Swansong [1996]). As such, it's one of their most interesting albums, if not one of their best, reflecting their past while foreshadowing their future. Songs like "Incarnated Solvent Abuse," one of the album's highlights, illustrate this very well. Though often overlooked in favor of what came before and what came after, Necroticism is nonetheless one of the standout death metal albums of the early '90s. Produced by Colin Richardson, it sounds phenomenal, and the musicianship here is a huge stride forward for the band, especially that of Steer. [When Earache reissued Necroticism, the label appended the Tools of the Trade EP as bonus tracks. The three-song EP was recorded around the same time and thus fits in rather well with the songs of Necroticism, not only in terms of sound but also style. The EP's title track is especially noteworthy and a nice addition.]

tags: carcass, necroticism, descanting the insalubrious, 1991, flac,

Carcass - Heartwork (1993) ☠

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Death Metal
Style: Melodic Death Metal
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☠: Selected by Buccaneer
© 1993 Earache
AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus
Heartwork marks Carcass' return after the self-imposed hiatus that followed 1991's Necroticism: Descanting the Insalubrious. It's also the pioneering grindcore outfit's breakthrough release, successfully grafting melody onto the existing muscle of Carcass' punishing antimusic. After a blistering opening salvo, the title track decelerates into a mid-tempo guitar lead, only to shift gears into a meaty verse that suggests the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. "Carnal Forge" and "Arbeit Macht Fleisch" are compacted with intricate, overlapping riffs that are relentless in their move forward, and yet there's still a sense of structure and melody, buried somewhere amid the carnage. Jeff Walker's vocals are consistent in their throat-ripping fierceness throughout the record, especially on "This Is Your Life," which messes with mixing to make the track truly arresting if listened to with headphones. While of normal album length, Heartwork nevertheless seems over too quickly, as if its bloodthirsty front end bit off its own backside. Some purists might decry its melodic breaks for soloing or nods toward conventional structure. But Heartwork is that rare album that so carefully dissects and reconstructs its original form that its additional body parts seem like they were there all along.

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Wilco - Summerteeth (1999)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock, Alternative Country
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© 1999 Reprise Records
AllMusic Review by Jason Ankeny
Jeff Tweedy once blazed the trail for the American rock underground's embrace of its country and folk roots, but as the decade drew to a close he also began spearheading the return of classic pop; simply put, what once were fiddles on Wilco records became violins -- the same instrument, to be sure, but viewed with a radical shift in perception and meaning. While lacking the sheer breadth and ambition of the previous Being There, Summer Teeth is the most focused Wilco effort yet, honing the lessons of the last record to forge a majestic pop sound almost completely devoid of alt-country elements. The lush string arrangements and gorgeous harmonies of tracks like "She's a Jar" and "Pieholden Suite" suggest nothing less than a landlocked Brian Wilson, while more straightforward rockers like the opening "I Can't Stand It" bear the influence of everything from R&B to psychedelia. Still, for all of the superficial warmth and beauty of the record's arrangements, Tweedy's songs are perhaps his darkest and most haunting to date, bleak domestic dramas informed by recurring themes of alienation, adultery, and abuse -- even the sunniest melodies mask moments of devastating power. If Summer Teeth has a precedent, it's peak-era Band; the album not only possesses a similar pastoral sensibility, but like Robbie Robertson and company before them, Wilco seems directly connected to a kind of American musical consciousness, not only rejuvenating our collective creative mythology, but adding new chapters to the legend with each successive record.

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Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock, Alternative Country
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© 2002 Nonesuch
AllMusic Review by Zac Johnson
Few bands can call themselves contemporaries of both the heartbreakingly earnest self-destruction of Whiskeytown and the alienating experimentation of Radiohead's post-millennial releases, but on the painstaking Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Wilco seem to have done just that. In early 2001, the Chicago-area band focused on recording their fourth album, which ultimately led to the departure of guitarist Jay Bennett and tensions with their record label. Unwilling to change the album to make it more commercially viable, the band bought the finished studio tapes from Warner/Reprise for 50,000 dollars and left the label altogether. The turmoil surrounding the recording and distribution of the album in no way diminishes the sheer quality of the genre-spanning pop songs written by frontman Jeff Tweedy and his bandmates. After throwing off the limiting shackles of the alt-country tag that they had been saddled with through their 1996 double album Being There, Wilco experimented heavily with the elaborate constructs surrounding their simple melodies on Summerteeth. The long-anticipated Yankee Hotel Foxtrot continues their genre-jumping and worthwhile experimentation. The sprawling, nonsensical "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" is as charmingly bleak as anything Tweedy has written to date, while the positively joyous "Heavy Metal Drummer" jangles through bright choruses and summery reminiscences. Similarly, "Kamera" dispels the opening track's gray with a warm acoustic guitar and mixer/multi-instrumentalist/"fifth Beatle" Jim O'Rourke's unusual production. The true high points of the album are when the songwriting is at its most introspective, as it is during the heartwrenching "Ashes of American Flags," which takes on an eerie poignancy in the wake of the attacks at the World Trade Center. "All my lies are always wishes," Tweedy sings, "I know I would die if I could come back new." As is the case with many great artists, the evolution of the band can push the music into places that many listeners (and record companies for that matter) may not be comfortable with, but, in the case of Wilco, their growth has steadily led them into more progressive territory. While their songs still maintain the loose intimacy that was apparent on their debut A.M., the music has matured to reveal a complexity that is rare in pop music, yet showcased perfectly on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

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Wilco - A Ghost Is Born (2004)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock, Alternative Country
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© 2004 Nonesuch
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming
It's hard not to wonder if Wilco's breakthrough 2002 release, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, would have been such a critical success and so eagerly embraced by the indie rock community if it hadn't become such a cause cÊlèbre thanks to the band being unceremoniously dropped by Reprise Records, and then signed by Nonesuch after the album had become a hot item on the Internet. Much of the critical reaction to the album, while almost uniformly enthusiastic (and rightly so), had an odd undertow that suggested the writers were not especially familiar with Wilco's body of work, registering a frequent sense of surprise that an "alt-country" band would make such an adventurous album while ignoring the creative shape-shifting that had been so much a part of Jeff Tweedy and company's approach on Being There and Summerteeth. The irony is that 2004's A Ghost Is Born, the eagerly awaited follow-up to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, is also the Wilco album with the strongest stylistic link to its immediate predecessor, as if their new fans are being given a moment to catch up. A Ghost Is Born hardly sounds like a retread of YHF, but the languid, ghostly song structures, the periodic forays into dissonance, and the pained, hesitant vocals from Jeff Tweedy that were so much a part of that album also take center stage here. But while much of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot had a cool and slightly removed feeling, A Ghost Is Born is considerably warmer and more organic; the extended instrumental breaks in several of the songs (two cuts are over ten minutes long) sound more like a group in full flight than the Pro Tools-assembled structures of YHF. And while Wilco's former secret weapon, Jay Bennett, is now out of the picture, the rest of the group (especially multi-instrumentalist Leroy Bach, keyboardist Mikael Jorgensen, and guitarist/co-producer Jim O'Rourke) fill the gaps with admirable grace and strength. If A Ghost Is Born has a flaw, it's in the songwriting; while this album is a "grower" if there ever was one, revealing more of its unexpected complexities with each spin, there are no songs here as immediately engaging as "War on War," "Heavy Metal Drummer," or "I'm the Man Who Loves You" from YHF, and while "Hummingbirds," "Handshake Drugs," and "Wishful Thinking" are tuneful and charming, they lack the resonance and emotional impact of Tweedy's strongest work. And the album's most purely enjoyable tune, the witty "The Late Greats," closes out the disc after the 15-minute drone dirge of "Less Than You Think," dramatically blunting its effectiveness. A Ghost Is Born confirms what old fans and recent converts already know -- that Wilco is one of America's most interesting and imaginative bands -- and it's brave and compelling listening. But if you're expecting another genre-defying masterpiece, well, maybe we'll get one of those next time.

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Wilco - Sky Blue Sky (2007)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Country
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© 2007 Nonesuch
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming
In 1999, Wilco willingly abdicated their position as one of the leading acts in the alt-country movement to dive head-first into the challenging waters of experimental pop with their album Summerteeth, and moved even further away from their rootsy origins with Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost Is Born, winning the group a new and enthusiastic audience along the way. So it might amuse a number of the band's earlier fans that in many respects Wilco's sixth studio album, Sky Blue Sky, sounds like the long-awaited follow-up to 1996's Being There -- while it lacks the ramshackle shape-shifting and broad twang of that earlier album, Sky Blue Sky represents a shift back to an organic sound and approach that suggests the influence of Neil Young's Harvest and the more polished avenues of '70s soft rock. Sky Blue Sky also marks Wilco's first studio recordings since Nels Cline and Pat Sansone joined the group, and they certainly make their presence felt -- with Cline, Wilco has its strongest guitarist to date, and while his interplay with Sansone on numbers like "Impossible Germany" and "Walken" lacks the skronky muscle of his more avant-garde work of the past, it's never less than inspired and he works real wonders with Jeff Tweedy's lovely melodies. Sansone's keyboard work also shines, adding soulful accents to "Side with the Seeds" and Mellotron on "Leave Me (Like You Found Me)," as does Mikael Jorgensen's piano and organ, and overall this is Wilco's strongest album as an ensemble to date. Tweedy's vocals boast a clarity and nuance that reveals he's grown in confidence and skill as a singer, and the songs recall Summerteeth's beautiful but unsettling mix of lovely tunes and lyrics that focus on troubled souls and crumbling relationships. Between the pensive "Be Patient with Me," the lovelorn "Hate It Here," and "On and On and On"'s pledge that "we'll stay together" squared off against the resignation of "Please don't cry/We're designed to die," Sky Blue Sky isn't afraid to go to the dark places, but Tweedy and his bandmates also find plenty of beauty, inspiration, and real joy along the way, and the album's open, natural sound is an ideal match for the material. Sky Blue Sky may find Wilco dipping their toes into roots rock again, but this doesn't feel like a step back so much as another fresh path for one of America's most consistently interesting bands.

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Wilco - Wilco (The Album) (2009)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock, Alternative Country
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© 2009 Nonesuch
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Rock & roll lifers that they are, Wilco knows the implications of a self-titled album, how any record bearing an eponymous name is bound to be seen as a reintroduction. That's why they puncture Wilco (The Album) with a parenthetical aside, a slyly ironic joke that deflates the notion that Wilco is returning to its roots while signaling that the band is finally lightening up again, a notion reinforced by the camel birthday party on the cover. And, to be fair, "reintroduction" is indeed too strong a term for a band that never went away, they merely spent a decade-and-a-half on a walkabout, consuming anything that came their way, changing their tone and tenor from record to record. Wilco (The Album) finds Wilco the band happily returning from the wilderness, taking stock of where they've been and consolidating all they've learned into one tight, likeable record. (The Album) never veers too far into the experimental -- nor does it dabble in country-rock, a sound that's largely remained verboten in Wilco ever since their debut -- but the reverberations of the Jay Bennett era can be heard in how "Bull Black Nova" builds to a shuddering, noise-filled coda, or the band's general mastery of varying degrees of light and shade. All this studio texture is not the focal point, it's the coloring on a collection of straight-ahead rock and pop songs, tunes that are generally soft, sunny, and hazy -- quite exquisitely so on the '70s George Harrison pastiche "You Never Know" and the nearly Baroque "Deeper Down" -- but also jangly and sparkly, as on "Sonny Feeling," or that have some measure of backbone, as on the spiky "I'll Fight" and the cool shuffle of "Wilco (The Song)." If Wilco (The Album) as a whole is considerably less ambitious than its predecessors, it compensates with its easy confidence and craft: it's the work of a band that knows their strengths and knows what they're all about, and it's ready to settle into an agreeably comfortable groove.

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Wilco - The Whole Love (2011)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock, Alternative Country
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© 2011 Anti/dBpm Records
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming
With 2002's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Wilco finally shed the "that guy from Uncle Tupelo" baggage that had kept them from gaining the respect they clearly deserved, and Jeff Tweedy gained the confidence to follow his muse in previously unfamiliar directions with increasingly rewarding results. But with so much space now open to Tweedy and his collaborators, Wilco's post-YHF studio work, while often brilliant, didn't seem quite as cohesive as Being There or Summerteeth, albums that were eclectic but revealed a unified core the newer albums somehow lacked. Part of this can be chalked up to frequent lineup changes, and the group seemed to be shaking this dilemma on Wilco (The Album), the second studio set from the band's strongest lineup to date, and with The Whole Love, they've finally made another album that pays off with the strength, consistency, and coherence of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Like YHF, The Whole Love is the work of a band that's stylistically up for anything, from the edgy dissonance of "The Art of Almost" and the moody contemplation of "Black Moon," to the ragged but spirited pop of "I Might" and the cocky rock & roll strut of "Standing O," but more so than anything the band has done since Being There, The Whole Love sounds like Wilco are having fun with their musical shape shifting. Even somber numbers like "Rising Red Lung" have a heart and soul that's warm and compelling, and these musicians consistently hit their targets both as individuals and as an ensemble; Mikael Jorgensen's keyboards bring a playful whimsy to songs that could sometimes use it, the guitar interplay between Tweedy, Nels Cline, and Pat Sansone never stops bubbling with great ideas, and bassist John Stirratt and drummer Glenn Kotche hold down the rhythm with equal parts of imagination and precision. With The Whole Love, Wilco have made an album where the whole is as strong as the individual parts: the musicians play off one another with the intuition and understanding that separates a real band rather than folks who simply work together, and the songs cohere into a whole that's rich, intelligent, and often genuinely moving. Quite simply, this is the work of a great band at the peak of their powers, and The Whole Love is a joy to hear, revealing more with each listen and confirming once again that Wilco is as good a band as America can claim in the 21st century.

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February 28, 2020

Brother Cane - Brother Cane (1993) ⚓

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 1993 Virgin Records
Review by RP Long for Stationary Waves.com
Long before there was "red dirt" music, there was Brother Cane, one of the best nineties rock and roll bands you've never heard.

Back then, the natural inclination upon hearing a Brother Cane song was to call it "southern rock." True, the band was from the south. And true, their songs featured a blend of country, blues, and hard rock. But there was more to Brother Cane than "Sweet Home Alabama." The band had a string of minor hits during the nineties, and these songs were so popular that, while you might not remember them unprompted, you'd recognize them if you heard them.

So, it's not "southern rock," which came earlier, and it's not "red dirt," which came later. What is it? It's the perfect blend of nineties hard rock experimentation with Nashville songwriting, that's what. And it was incredible.

Singer and guitarist Damon Johnson has one of the best voices in hard rock, capable of screaming high notes, dusky low notes, and everything in between. Vocally, he's the result of equal parts Chris Robinson and Chris Cornell. That alone is worth the price of admission, but Johnson ups the ante with guitar pyrotechnics so substantial that they landed him a gig in Sammy Hagar's band, a gig in Alice Cooper's band, and finally a gig in Thin Lizzy / Black Star Riders. So we're not just talking about a good pop rock singer or a good guitarist, we're talking about skills in both territories that have put him in the enviable position of being a major in-demand guitarist to rock and roll's living legends.

Get the picture?

Brother Cane's debut album, 1993's Brother Cane gave them two recognizable hits in the hard-hitting "Got No Shame" and the softer, sweeter "Hard Act to Follow," both of which I still hear on rock radio stations today.

Naturally, this debut album is not as well-defined, from an artistic standpoint, as their subsequent releases, but all the Brother Cane trademarks are in place. You could say a lot of things about a band this good, in terms of what those trademarks really are, but for me, I can sum it up in one word: intelligence.

Intelligence is the thing that put Brother Cane ahead of all the other southern rockers, all the other nineties bands, and certainly all the red dirt bands that popped up two decades later. While the songs on Brother Cane certainly feel like straight-ahead country-twinged rock songs, the riffs have a harmonic depth that straight-ahead rock so often lacks. Even Johnson's guitar solos, despite their explosiveness, always shine for their note choice more than their speed. And the melodic composition of the songs is a few steps ahead of the game. Add to that the rather clever and surprisingly technical drumming of Scott Collier. Not content to simply keep the beat, Collier's drumming features unique and well-thought out beats that, while never over-stated, always served to inject a level of depth in what might otherwise be a straight-forward rock song. Collier would really spread his wings on the band's second album, but even here on the debut the intelligence of his craft is fully evident.

Brother Cane is an excellent album, one that sets the stage for what the band would accomplish later. Its only real weakness, if it has one, is that it is not quite as good as the band's later releases - but you certainly can't fault a band for ending better than they began! Not a lot of people remember this band, just as not a lot of people had heard of them at the time, but for any fan of melodic hard rock, it's love at first sound.

tags: brother cane, brother cane album, 1993, flac,

Wilco - A.M. (1995) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock, Alternative Country
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1995 Reprise Records
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming
Uncle Tupelo played their final show on May 1, 1994, and little more than a month later, the band's final lineup, minus co-founder Jay Farrar, was cutting an album under the name Wilco. The group's transition happened so quickly that frontman Jeff Tweedy hadn't even found a new lead guitarist when they set up in the studio -- Brian Henneman from the Bottle Rockets was drafted to play on the band's first sessions. Given all this, it should come as no surprise that Wilco's debut LP, 1995's A.M., is by far the one with the closest resemblance to Uncle Tupelo. The attack sounds more than a bit like the twangy roar of UT's final album, 1993's Anodyne, albeit with a brighter and better detailed mix, and many of the songs recall the melodic style of Tweedy's contributions to the former incarnation of the band. And Henneman's soloing serves a similar function to Jay Farrar's Neil Young-inspired leads in Uncle Tupelo, even if Henneman's playing has a leaner personality of its own. But stripped of the dour tone Farrar brought to the band and the occasionally strained seriousness of his outlook, A.M. sounds like this band is having a blast in a way they never had before. It's all but impossible to imagine Uncle Tupelo kicking up their heels with numbers like "I Must Be High," "Casino Queen," or "Box Full of Letters," and the interplay between the musicians -- Henneman on guitar, Tweedy on vocals and guitar, John Stirratt on bass, Ken Coomer on drums, and Max Johnson on banjo, fiddle, mandolin, and Dobro -- feels playful and easygoing, even on sorrowful tunes like "I Thought I Held You" and "Should've Been in Love." And while Tweedy was still finding a more individual voice as a songwriter, "Dash 7" and "Too Far Apart" contain echoes of the sort of music Wilco would be making a few years later. A.M. beat Trace, the first album from Jay Farrar's Son Volt, into record shops by six months, but in the minds of many alt-country fans, Tweedy's album was the weaker effort. However, viewed in the context of Wilco's catalog more than 20 years on, A.M. sounds like the point where Jeff Tweedy and his collaborators let go of Uncle Tupelo and took a bold, smart step into their future.

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Wilco - Being There (1996)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock, Alternative Country
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        *****
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© 1996 Reprise Records
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming
Wilco barely had time to figure out just what sort of band they were going to be when they cut their first album, 1995's A.M., and it wasn't until they hit the road that they began to fully emerge from the shadow of Uncle Tupelo, the band co-founded by Wilco leader Jeff Tweedy. As Wilco developed a distinct sonic personality of their own, Tweedy became more ambitious as a songwriter, exploring thematic and melodic elements he'd never considered before, and the band was a very different animal when it returned to the studio to cut its second album. Released in 1996, Being There was a stunning leap forward for Wilco, a sprawling double-disc set that confirmed they were far more than just another Midwestern alt-country outfit. Jay Bennett joined Wilco following the recording of A.M., and while his guitar work was solid, it was his keyboards that expanded Wilco's sonic palette and helped redefine their attack, sharpening their rock moves, sweetening their pop side, and adding a sinewy groove throughout. Tweedy, Bennett, and their bandmates (Max Johnson on fiddle, banjo, mandolin, and Dobro; John Stirratt on bass; and Ken Coomer on drums) developed a new sense of daring, willing to bounce from indie rock noisemaking ("Misunderstood"), nervy autobiographical studies ("Red-Eyed and Blue"), and retro-pop stylings ("Outta Mind [Outta Sight]") to boozy Stones-influenced rock ("Monday") and country weepers more emotionally layered than they'd even tried before ("Say You Miss Me"). While there was still twang in Wilco's formula, Being There broke them out of the alt-country ghetto, confirming they were as versatile as any band in the indie rock firmament, and they consistently sounded joyous and fully in command regardless of the detours they took. Being There's 19 tracks are individually outstanding, and taken together, they add up to a three-way cross between Neil Young's Harvest, the Rolling Stones' Exile on Main St., and Big Star's 3rd that still leaves room for some impressive tricks of its own. If Being There isn't Wilco's best album, it's the one that staked their claim as an important American band, and it's a rich, dazzling experience from beginning to end.

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February 27, 2020

The Black Dahlia Murder - Deflorate (2009)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Death Metal
Style: Melodic Death Metal
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© 2009 Metal Blade Records
AllMusic Review by Greg Prato
Combining death metal with anything resembling melody kinda defeats the whole purpose, doesn't it? Guess no one ever bothered to tell the Black Dahlia Murder this heavy metal golden rule, as evidenced by their fourth studio release overall, 2009's Deflorate. But don't be misled: it's not like they're going to be confused anytime soon as power pop champions when it comes to melodic content -- it's a tiny pinch of melody stirred into gallons of brutal extreme metal. The album signals the first appearance by new guitarist Ryan Knight, replacing John Kempainen, who played on all of the group's previous studio efforts. However, the slight lineup hiccup has not affected the ferocity of the Black Dahlia Murder's mighty metal attack, especially on such eardrum blasters as "Necropolis" and "Denounced, Disgraced." As with past Black Dahlia Murder releases, Trevor Strnad is one of the genre's most impressive vocalists, as he effortlessly alternates between screechy screams and guttural growls, without ever missing a beat. Some bands soften their approaches with experimentation as their discographies grow. Deflorate proves that the Black Dahlia Murder will not be listed in this category anytime soon.

tags: the black dahlia murder, deflorate, 2009, flac,

The Black Dahlia Murder - Ritual (2011) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Death Metal
Style: Melodic Death Metal
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☠: Selected by Buccaneer
© 2011 Metal Blade Records
AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger
Rising above the predictable black din of contemporary death metal can be a formidable task, but Michigan-based melodic death rockers the Black Dahlia Murder manage to do just that on their fifth studio album, the relentless and rewarding Ritual. Employing a lethal mix of old-school American thrash, Scandinavian black metal, Carcass-era grindcore, and classic dual-lead power metal, Ritual roars in like a runaway train and leaves the listener in pieces. Stand-out cuts like “Moonlight Equilibrium,” “The Window,” “Carbonized in Cruciform,” and “Blood in the Ink” may borrow cues from like-minded outfits such as Protest the Hero, Unearth, and At the Gates, but the sheer stamina, unpretentious delivery, and attention to detail (pinpointed bursts of vocal flange, Iron Maiden-worthy staccato leads, and breakdowns that actually feel necessary) is pure Black Dahlia firing on all cylinders. It's the band’s most impressive outing to date, and easily one of the best metal albums of 2011.

tags: the black dahlia murder, murder ritual, 2011, flac,

The Black Dahlia Murder - Everblack (Limited Edition) (2013) ☠

*Contains 11 tracks total.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Death Metal
Style: Melodic Death Metal
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☠: Selected by Buccaneer
© 2013 Metal Blade Records
AllMusic Review by Gregory Heaney
Though being an American death metal band that has entrenched itself on the Billboard charts is an impressive enough feat in and of itself, perhaps the most impressive trick the Black Dahlia Murder have pulled off is that they have accomplished this while actually getting better. On Everblack, their furious sixth album, they continue to refine their hybrid sound, combining the melody and technicality of melodic death metal with the savage brutality of their homeland's domestic death metal offerings. Add a touch of thrash's relentlessness and the listener is presented with a thrilling and visceral sound that's capable of being cathartic without sacrificing musicianship, avoiding cheap tricks like endless strings of breakdowns. Though metal has become an increasingly codified genre over the years, Everblack shows the heights a band can reach by simply having the confidence to forge its own path, following influences and inspirations wherever they may lead without worrying about whether or not death metal is being created "the right way." In a way, the Black Dahlia Murder have figured out how to create a new sound not by innovation, but invitation, welcoming bits and pieces from all over the metal world to make something exciting and exhilarating, which, aside from being a huge boon for metal fans, is the most hopeful thing to be said about an album containing a song titled "Raped in Hatred by Vines of Thorn."

tags: the black dahlia murder, everblack, ever black, limited edition, 2013, flac,

February 26, 2020

3LW - A Girl Can Mack (2002)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: R&B
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© 2002 Epic
Review by Allmusic.com
Despite the soap-opera-type controversy surrounding 3LW's sophomore release (a food fight, tears, a member forced out of the band) that makes it uncertain whether they're currently 3 or 2LW (the moniker originally stood for Three Little Women), A GIRL CAN MACK proves that these girls can also sing. Production, courtesy of P. Diddy, the Full Force crew, and Mario Winans, among others, is witty and imaginative, particularly on the Force-produced, Eastern-inflected "I Need That (I Want That)" featuring Lil' Kim, a cut that's unique enough to stand out from the usual R&B fare.
The Diddy-produced "I Do" is stripped-down dance music, its spare rhythms enhanced by a skipping synth figure and a chorus as catchy as winter flu. A GIRL CAN MACK is divided between such club fare and slinky, sexy cuts such as "This Goes Out" and the deep after-hours soul of "Good Good Girl," and the LW prove here they're adept at covering both bases.

tags: 3lw, a girl can mack, 2002, flac,

The Black Dahlia Murder - Unhallowed (2003)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Death Metal
Style: Melodic Death Metal
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© 2003 Metal Blade Records
AllMusic Review by William York
While not exactly original, Unhallowed, the debut full-length from Detroit, MI, quintet the Black Dahlia Murder is a well-executed slice of melodic death/black metal in the tradition of Swedish masters Dissection and At the Gates. They've clearly studied those bands, as is reflected in the racing, dual-harmonized guitar riffs that form the foundation of this album, but then again, the riffs are at times a little too reminiscent of what many folks will have already heard on albums such as Storm of the Light's Bane and Slaughter of the Soul. The vocals are a little different, though, consisting of a high-pitched shriek that's complemented by a lower, more standard death metal growl. Also of note is the drumming, which is pretty swift, even by this genre's standards. This band has a lot of youthful energy and chops and has the potential to do something great if they can come up with something less imitative and more their own.

tags: the black dahlia murder, unhallowed, 2003, flac,

The Black Dahlia Murder - Miasma (2005)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Death Metal
Style: Melodic Death Metal
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© 2005 Metal Blade Records
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson
The brutal murder of 22-year-old Elizabeth Short, aka the Black Dahlia, in Los Angeles in early 1947 went down in history as one of the most gruesome and shocking crimes of the '40s. The United States was, generally speaking, a more innocent, less jaded country (at least on the surface) in that pre-Manson Family, pre-Hillside Strangler, pre-Night Stalker era -- and Short's mutilation horrified a lot of Americans. Any band that would name itself after Short's killing is obviously fascinated with dark subject matter, and shock-value lyrics are quite plentiful on the Black Dahlia Murder's second full-length album, Miasma. This 2005 release is a perfect example of a U.S. recording with a very Scandinavian sound; BDM are from Detroit, but their bombastic death metal/black metal assault is greatly influenced by the extreme metal bands of Sweden and Norway. Miasma is hardly the only 2005 release that combines death metal and black metal elements, but the way BDM handles the vocals -- although not innovative -- is noteworthy. There are two extreme vocal styles on Miasma -- death metal's deep, guttural growl and black metal's high-pitched rasp -- and throughout the 33-minute disc, the growl and the rasp interact in a duet-like fashion. Wherever the growl goes, the rasp is never far away (and vice versa). The growl and the rasp are so integrated on Miasma that BDM never really shows a preference for either death metal or black metal; the Motor City residents show an equally strong appreciation of both and do so with consistently Nordic-sounding results. This harsh, blistering sledgehammer of a CD falls short of remarkable, but it's a decent (if somewhat uneven) effort that is worth checking out if one holds Scandinavian-style death metal and Scandinavian-style black metal in equally high regard.

tags: the black dahlia murder, miasma, 2005, flac,

February 25, 2020

The Black Dahlia Murder - Nocturnal (2007) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Death Metal
Style: Melodic Death Metal
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☠: Selected by Buccaneer
© 2007 Metal Blade Records
AllMusic Review by Greg Prato
As far as rock music goes, Detroit will always be primarily associated for spawning such high-energy proto-punk bands as the Stooges and the MC5. In other words, extreme metal isn't exactly one of the area's chief music exports. But rather unexpectedly, Detroit has given birth to one of the more intense metal acts of the early 21st century, the Black Dahlia Murder, who manage to up the ante even further with their fifth release overall, 2007's Nocturnal. While death metal serves as the group's musical foundation, the Black Dahlia Murder is certainly one of the more melodic bands of the genre -- and manage to do so without forfeiting any of their metallic muscle. Blastbeats, death metal riffs, and vocals that alternate between growled and screamed (the latter a tactic which quickly became the standard of the genre), Nocturnal shows the group refining and focusing their style/sound even further, especially on such delightful little ditties as "Everything Went Black" and "I Worship Only What You Bleed." Nocturnal certainly delivers on the promise of their 2005 breakthrough, Miasma -- no abrupt "losing of the plot" here, folks.

tags: the black dahlia murder, nocturnal, 2007, flac,

Cyndi Lauper - She's So Unusual (1983) ☠

*This is a repress of the original 1983 release. 
The catalogue/label no. is RK 38930, the same as the original 1983 pressing. 
Despite the fact that both the disc and the inlay shows the original 10 track listing, this CD differs in that it actually contains 9 tracks total. 
The original 45 second track "He's So Unusual" has been merged with "Yeah Yeah" as track 9. 
This CD features the original audio mastering from the 1983 CD release. 
A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Pop
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1983 Portrait
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
One of the great new wave/early MTV records, She's So Unusual is a giddy mix of self-confidence, effervescent popcraft, unabashed sentimentality, subversiveness, and clever humor. In short, it's a multifaceted portrait of a multifaceted talent, an artist that's far more clever than her thin, deliberately girly voice would indicate. Then again, Lauper's voice suits her musical persona, since its chirpiness adds depth, or reconfigures the songs, whether it's the call to arms of "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" or the tearjerking "Time After Time." Lauper is at her very best on the first side, all of which were singles or received airplay, and this collection of songs -- "Money Changes Everything," "Girls," "When You Were Mine," "Time," "She Bop," "All Through the Night" -- is astonishing in its consistency, so strong that it makes the remaining tracks -- all enjoyable, but rather pedestrian -- charming by their association with songs so brilliantly alive. If Lauper couldn't maintain this level of consistency, it's because this captured her persona better than anyone could imagine -- when a debut captures a personality so well, let alone a personality so tied to its time, the successive work can't help but pale in comparison. Still, when it's captured as brightly and brilliantly as it is here, it does result in a debut that retains its potency, long after its production seems a little dated.

tags: cyndi lauper, shes so unusual, 1983, flac,