March 31, 2020

John Foxx - In Mysterious Ways (Deluxe Edition) (2008)

*Reissued in 2008 by Edsel Records 
with an additional disc containing 9 bonus tracks. 
Features remastered audio.
Country: United Kingdom
Genre: New Wave, Synth Pop
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              *****
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© 1985-2008 Edsel Records
AllMusic Review by Dan LeRoy
Former Ultravox singer John Foxx's final solo album of the '80s put some distance between him and the stylish new romantic sound he helped pioneer. Instead, even though he played most of the instruments and returned to producing himself after working with Zeus B Held, In Mysterious Ways goes for a fuller, somewhat more organic sound. Foxx adds arena-style guitars on "Lose All Sense of Time" and "This Side of Paradise," and near-gospel-ish backing vocals on "Enter the Angel." The intrusions on his trademark chilly synth pop aren't always welcome, and even the lyrics employ a surprising amount of clich├ę ("Stars on Fire"). However, the more conventional trappings can't completely dilute Foxx's talent and sense of style, and the gentle, gorgeous title track is one of his best. After this outing, which failed to connect commercially, Foxx bowed out of music for more than a decade, returning in the late '90s with a new interest in ambient, Eno-esque soundscapes.

tags: john foxx, in mysterious ways, deluxe edition, 1985, 2008, flac,

Lagwagon - Duh (1992)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Punk Rock
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© 1992 Fat Wreck Chords
AllMusic Review by Mike DaRonco
This could be easily described as just another NOFX clone band from California, but there's more to Lagwagon than just that. Lyrically and structurally, the songwriting has more of a mature edge; "Tragic Vision," for example, talks about today's children becoming addicted to drugs and dealing with handguns at an early age. But then there's also the lighter side that pokes fun at the band's addiction to coffee ("Mr. Coffee") and playing in front of an empty bar ("Beer Goggles"). Despite the effort that Lagwagon put into their music, Duh still comes across as redundant at times. It may not be the most groundbreaking album out there, but it is a hint of better things to come.

tags: lagwagon, duh, 1992, flac,

Lagwagon - Trashed (1994)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Punk Rock
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© 1994 Fat Wreck Chords
AllMusic Review by Mike DaRonco
Lagwagon has always been labeled as the stereotypical Fat Wreck Chords band. With a sound similar to that of NOFX and many other bands on that label (i.e., galloping pop-punk, harmonized vocals and a start-stop rhythm), these guys have been unfairly judged as another carbon copy California band -- but Lagwagon has a more mature, structured sound in comparison to a lot of the bands on the aforementioned label. With their second album, Trashed, it's pretty obvious that they've grown up lyrically as well. The opening track, "Island of Shame," deals with the isolation of having a disease in a narrow-minded small town. Along with some of the more serious songs on Trashed, there are an equal number of tunes that reflect a more playful side. For example, "Goin' South" talks about the frustrations of getting lost on the way to one of their shows: "We're heading south on the north bound/Our wheels might as well be square." Then there's their rendition of Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl," in which they butcher this classic in a way that makes it ten times more enjoyable. This album should appeal to the 15-year-old skater in all of us.

tags: lagwagon, trashed, 1994, flac,

March 30, 2020

John Foxx - The Golden Section (Deluxe Edition) (2008)

*Reissued in 2008 by Edsel Records 
with an additional disc containing 16 bonus tracks. 
Features remastered audio.
Country: United Kingdom
Genre: New Wave
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            *****
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© 1983-2008 Edsel Records
AllMusic Review by John Bush
Another radically different record to file next to his first two, the third solo album by John Foxx focused on fusing the experimental fringe of synth pop with a melodic preoccupation that almost put him into crossover territory. Capped by the superb single "Endlessly," The Golden Section again distanced Foxx from the glut of synth bands on the market.

tags: john foxx, the golden section, deluxe edition, 1983, 2008, flac,

Lagwagon - Let's Talk About Feelings (1998) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Punk Rock
Style: Pop Punk, Skate Punk
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1998 Fat Wreck Chords
AllMusic Review by Andy Hinds
Lagwagon's caffeinated combination of adrenaline, melody, and humor owes a lot to NOFX and for that matter, Descendents. Although the band doesn't add any new dimensions to the So-Cal punk tradition, they hold it up admirably with tight playing and sometimes heartfelt lyrics. Let's Talk About Feelings won't be a revelation to fans of the pop punk genre, but it may provide an enjoyable, if not essential, addition to their collections.

tags: lagwagon, lets talk about feelings, 1998, flac,

John Foxx - Metamatic (Deluxe Edition) (2007)

*Reissued in 2007 by Edsel Records 
with an additional disc containing 13 bonus tracks. 
Features remastered audio.
Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Synth Pop
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             *****
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© 1980-2007 Edsel Records
AllMusic Review by John Bush
Foxx's solo debut after leaving Ultravox!, Metamatic, achieves the same emotional transcendence as his previous group's early highlight, Systems of Romance, despite a new reliance not just on synthesizers, but on a musical framework dependent on them. On Metamatic, Foxx cultivates a curious air of disinterest that never seems truly bored, but is much more extreme than even his unarguably distant vocal style for Ultravox!. It holds up as one of the peaks of the early-'80s fascination with emotionless, Kraftwerk-inspired synth pop.

tags: john foxx, metamatic, deluxe edition, 1980, 2007, flac,

John Foxx - The Garden (Deluxe Edition) (2008)

*Reissued in 2008 by Edsel Records 
with an additional disc containing 12 bonus tracks. 
Features remastered audio.
Country: United Kingdom
Genre: New Wave, Synth Pop
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            *****
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© 1981-2008 Edsel Records
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett
John Foxx's second solo effort is a lovely slice of underrated, early-'80s pop/rock with a decidedly electronic touch. Starting with an absolutely killer track -- the steady Krautrock-rhythm pulse and shimmer of "Europe After the Rain," Foxx's elegantly passionate vocal is the icing on the cake -- The Garden finds Foxx working with a core band on a series of similarly striking tunes. While there's a slight misfire here and there -- "When I Was a Man and You Were a Woman" gets its promising lyric and proto-industrial rhythm breaks undercut by a strident, of-its-time synth flourish on the choruses -- The Garden is polished, epic post-punk of the finest variety. At its hardest rocking, it easily calls up the contemporary work of bands like U2, Simple Minds, and Echo & the Bunnymen in its driving, charging sweep. Foxx himself plays a fine guitar, but Robin Simon gets the lead guitar credits throughout the album and turns out to be an under-appreciated figure of that era, relying on quick, sudden bursts of chords and feedback to carry his work. "Systems of Romance," borrowing its title from the last Foxx-led Ultravox album and possessing a thrilling instrumental coda, and the dramatic charge of "Walk Away" make for two of the strongest standouts, as does the title track, concluding the album with a striking combination of mysterious, haunting moods and keyboard parts. Foxx's Bowie fixation isn't lessened any here lyrically or vocally, but he's certainly got his own take on it now. (His own vocal approach would crop up in future bands' work.) In a coincidental but sly touch, Foxx beat out his former bandmates when it came to religious themes in songs -- a year before the Midge Ure-fronted group released "Hymn" as a single, Foxx adapted the "Pater Noster" chant from Catholic services into a song, and quite successfully at that.

tags: john foxx, fox, the garden, deluxe edition, 1981, 2008, flac,

March 29, 2020

Yellowcard - Where We Stand (1999)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Punk Rock
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© 1999 Takeover Records
AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus
Where We Stand reappears in 2004 via Takeover as a reissue of Yellowcard's 1999 sophomore effort, in the wake of the Florida combo's major-label debut, Ocean Avenue. The sound here is a respectable sketch of what would come; while vocalist Ryan Key had yet to join up, original frontman Ben Dobson doesn't really sound that much different, and his harmonies with Todd Clary are pretty impressive. There's a heavy Offspring influence here, along with some Green Day and 311; the latter group's influence can be heard most on tracks like "Lesson Learned" and "Time Will Tell," where Sean Wellman's violin adds a dynamic instrumental layer to the usual pop-punk power chords and rapid rhythmic pace. "Kids" is another highlight, with its cross of hardcore aggression and cool heavy metal changes, while "Sorry Try Again" keeps thrash in the picture. Fidelity is a bit of an issue here, especially if fans are comparing it to Ocean Avenue, which was mixed top-shelf style by Tom Lord-Alge. But Where We Stand is still an interesting look at Yellowcard's formative past for listeners made curious by the Capitol release.

tags: yellowcard, where we stand, 1999, flac,

Yellowcard - One For The Kids (2001)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Punk Rock
Style: Pop Punk
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© 2001 Lobster Records
AllMusic Review by Kurt Morris
Yellowcard's One for the Kids is a power punk album full of hooks and catchy choruses as strong as any of the syrupy sweet punk bands around southern California, except that Yellowcard is from Florida. Nevertheless, Yellowcard's take on punk is a bit different (but isn't that what punk is all about anyway?), as one of the major instruments incorporated on the album is the electric violin. It truly adds a whole new dynamic to the album, as it seems more like the Dave Matthews Band at some points rather than Lagwagon or New Found Glory. The guitar playing is furious and full of stops and starts, very reminiscent of early Slick Shoes material. And if all this weren't enough, there are a couple of acoustic tracks to boot. This all makes for a pleasant shot of diversity for the punk-pop style (if it can even be called that, considering the range of sound on the album) that seems to become more and more diluted of its power as the years go on.

tags: yellowcard, one for the kids, 2001, flac,

Angie Martinez - Up Close & Personal (2001)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Pop Rap
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© 2001 Elektra
AllMusic Review by Kerry L. Smith
It doesn't hurt to have friends like Wyclef Jean, Snoop Dogg, and Mary J. Blige. But Angie Martinez stands her ground when rapping alongside mega-rap stars like these on her debut album, Up Close and Personal (Elektra Records). The Hot 97 FM DJ is no stranger to the scene; she's been fraternizing with hip-hop and rap stars and establishing friendships with many of them, including the artists that appear on the album. Martinez shines on tracks like "Gutter to tha Fancy Ish," on which she flaunts her quick-tongued rap technique and a tough-girl attitude while alternating verses with none other than Busta Rhymes. Speaking about hangin' with her girls, Martinez lays the truth down on the line when she says, "Underestimate me is to not know me/analyze every situation/and I rise to any occasion." On the funky, bass-driven track "New York, New York," Martinez raps with Prodigy and DJ Clue. The album features mostly heavy, bass-driven rap tracks, but Martinez's playfulness trickles in through a pair of brief interludes -- recordings of phone conversations with her rapper pals. Martinez then slips smoothly into hip-hop mode with the laid-back track "No Playaz," which showcases Martinez's singing ability and some backup verse from rappers Lil' Mo and Sunshine. "Live at Jimmy's" is by far the most energetic and fun song on the album. Mary J. Blige and La India come on board for the rap track "Breathe," which could double as a pop tune with its breathy chorus and melodic beats. And Martinez proves that she's no lightweight on the fast-paced, aggressive track "Go!" On her first time around, Martinez has delivered a well-rounded album that features solid raps, Latin grooves, and a few lighter, melodic tunes. In between rapping with some of rap and hip-hop's heaviest hitters, Martinez slips in a mention of HBO's Sex and the City on one of the songs. Now, there's a girl you gotta respect.

tags: angie martinez, up close and personal, 2001, flac,

Angie Martinez - Animal House (2002)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Pop Rap
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© 2002 Elektra
AllMusic Review by Michael Gallucci
Martinez's day job is as a DJ at a N.Y.C. hip-hop station, and her second album is reason enough for her not to quit. Devoid of style and anything to say, Martinez merely recites her rhymes over flaccid beats, hoping to hook on to something. She falls into nearly all of hip-hop's traps (thankfully, she keeps Animal House at a reasonable 45 minutes): overwrought R&B choruses, lame-ass skits, and "featured" turns by guest-rapping B-listers. She spins records better than she spins tales, most of which are concerned with giving mad props to herself. Only "If I Could Go" has a discernible hook, and it's a vaguely familiar one at that (same goes for the cut that sounds like it was cribbed from Jay-Z's Blueprint reel). Clearly, Martinez fancies herself a baby sis to Missy Elliott (who cameos) and Eve. But it's tough trekking when the beats are this sparse and the rhymes this ho-hum. Maybe she can get her pals at the radio station to play it.

tags: angie martiniez, animal house, 2002, flac,

The Ataris - Blue Skies, Broken Hearts… Next 12 Exits (1999)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Punk Rock
Style: Pop Punk
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© 1999 Kung Fu Records
AllMusic Review by Vincent Jeffries
Possibly the most country-sounding record title in punk rock history, Blue Skies, Broken Hearts...Next 12 Exits proved to be the breakout disc for Santa Barbara punkers the Ataris. Sporting fine production thanks to Lagwagon's Joey Cape, this follow-up to the band's surprising debut solidified the Ataris' position among the leaders of late-'90s pop-punk. The tempos settle down a little on this 1999 release, giving songs like "I Won't Spend Another Night Alone" more of an alt-rock feel, but the tight compositions never stray too far from the group's post-revivalist, almost emo punk. When Cape takes a chance by adding a melodic cello line to the acoustic "My Hotel Year," the Ataris almost dare the punk community to question their integrity but, with its one-and-a-half-minute running time and furious guitar strumming, the track maintains the record's intensity and never panders to the listenership of complaint-saturated soft rock, which somehow became known as alternative in the mid-'90s. True to form, the Ataris give solid performances of first-rate pop-punk material on this, perhaps their best release.

tags: the ataris, blue skies broken hearts next 12 exits, 1999, flac,

The Ataris - End Is Forever (2001)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Punk Rock
Style: Pop Punk
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© 2001 Kung Fu Records
AllMusic Review by Vincent Jeffries
Following up their breakthrough 1999 release Blue Skies, Broken Hearts...Next 12 Exits, Kris Roe and his band, the Ataris, offered up the dynamic, dangerously non-punk End Is Forever in early 2001. Along with singer/guitarist Roe, Chris Knapp (drums), Marco Pena (guitars), and bassist Mike Davenport wind their way through an expanse of post-grunge alternative and emocore more musical than anything the Ataris had previously released. Listeners familiar with the group's earlier recordings probably won't be too surprised by End Is Forever as Roe's quickly developing, gifted writing had always been the outfit's defining factor, making the transition away from punk's noisier elements predestined. Purists already dismissive of the entire emo genre will be mortified by Roe's polished heart-tugging trilogy "Giving Up on Love," "Summer Wind Was Always Our Song," and "I.O.U. One Galaxy" that opens the disc. Things degenerate further for credibility-obsessed punk fans when Roe and Co. kick out some old-fashioned big rock on tracks like "Road Signs and Rock Songs." Listeners anxious about the Ataris unavoidable flight to the punk genre suburbs won't have to read between any lines to figure where the band was heading when they produced this 2001 release. After End Is Forever, all that remained to be seen is just how far the quartet's undeniable mainstream appeal would take them.

tags: the ataris, end is forever, 2001, flac,

The Ataris - So Long, Astoria (2003)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Punk Rock
Style: Pop Punk
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© 2003 Columbia
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
Kris Roe, leader of the Ataris, would seem a little young for nostalgia, but So Long, Astoria (its title referring to Astoria, OR, the town in the 1985 film The Goonies) is his musical version of a memory play, a series of reflections on his youth in the late '70s and '80s. Roe, who grew up in Anderson, IN, and moved to Santa Barbara, CA, to pursue his rock & roll dreams, reminisces fondly about adolescence in songs like "Summer '79" and addresses his own young fans in "My Reply." The Ataris' fourth full-length album of new material and their major-label debut on Columbia Records, So Long, Astoria is, musically, another collection of typical speed punk tunes, virtually indistinguishable from the work of Green Day and blink-182, not to mention dozens of other similar bands. It is only Roe's lyrical identity that makes the band's songs stand out, and you only pick up on those lyrics on repeated listenings. When you do, Roe's sentimentality stands in contrast to the music's aggression, but he doesn't really have much insight into his memories. The idea of covering Don Henley's "The Boys of Summer" as a punk anthem has promise, but when Roe revises the famous line about the "Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac" by referring to Black Flag, he strikes a false note. Henley's observation was telling because it was true; Roe's is only cute because it scans. There's the problem when your memories are so infused with the movies you watched and the music you listened to -- they tend to sound secondhand. And when you set it to music already slavishly imitative of your betters, the problem is compounded.

tags: the ataris, so long astoria, 2003, flac,

The Ataris - Welcome The Night (2006)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock
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© 2006 Sanctuary/ Isola Recordings
AllMusic Review by Corey Apar
The Ataris couldn't have picked a more appropriate title for their fifth record, Welcome the Night: almost every note sounds as if written at the midnight hour by frontman Kris Roe as he was locked in his apartment alone during a self-imposed exile. The guys parted ways with Columbia following the completion of Night (their long-delayed follow-up to 2003's So Long, Astoria), and wound up creating their own Isola Recordings (with distribution through Sanctuary) to finally bring the album to the light of day. In the meantime, the group inflated to a staggering seven members (including a cellist and pianist), and together the Ataris are now apparently infatuated with their Smiths collections and overall love of lush and moody alternative rock. They are hardly recognizable as the same band documenting Black Flag stickers on Cadillacs just a few short years ago, and the difference is not just in Roe's noticeably richer vocals. Layers of sweeping arrangements and dynamic buildups over lyrics of longing and snapshots of yesterday suggest that the Ataris now need to be seen as serious rock musicians free from the constraints of pop-punk. This is grown-up angst, and the opening "Not Capable of Love" is surprisingly melancholic in its reflections of life and relationships in the years since those doe-eyed beginnings. "I'm not capable of love/That kind of love/That I felt when I was 21," Roe achingly sings wrapped in a dark envelope of yearning. The added depth of instrumentation gives Welcome the Night a lonely sort of warmth that was never really present in the band's prior work, and it's a nice feel. Songs like the nearly hopeful "The Cheyenne Line" and wounded "From the Last, Last Call" -- the latter using light acoustics for reflections through stained glass -- are well-crafted balances of hidden pain and muted radiance. But elsewhere, the Ataris seem to get too wrapped up in their seriousness to notice when things get a tad too melodramatic for their own good. Though it's nice to see the band reaching for something unexpected (and hitting the mark dead-on several times), even those good intentions can't unfortunately hide the fact that by Welcome the Night's end, it's really just become a murky sea of mournful strings, gentle percussion, and hushed lines of regret that simply float away into the darkness.

tags: the ataris, welcome to the night, 2006, flac,

March 28, 2020

You Me At Six - Take off Your Colours (2008)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Punk Rock
Style: Pop Punk
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© 2008 Slam Dunk Records
AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien
A potential stop-gap for those who feel like they've grown out of the schoolboy pop-punk of Busted but aren't quite ready yet to embrace the post-hardcore of Fightstar, Surrey quintet You Me at Six's debut album, Take Off Your Colours, combines the youthful exuberance and anthemic melodies of the former with the crunching guitars and over-earnest vocals of the latter on 13 tracks which appear to have followed the "emo-pop for dummies"' handbook word-for-word. Unfortunately, they're not the first to notice a gap in the market, and as Josh Franceschi's faux-American tones succinctly state on opener, "The Truth Is a Terrible Thing" ("Don't waste your time/You've heard it all before"), there's very little here to differentiate them from the likes of Kids in Glass Houses, Elliot Minor, or the dozens of other Kerrang!-friendly upstarts who have emerged of late. Packed with brash singalong choruses, power-chord heavy hooks, and teenage angst-ridden lyrics, the likes of breakup anthem "You've Made Your Bed (So Sleep in It)," and lead single "Save It for the Bedroom" have the whole tortured soul shtick down to a T, but by failing to deviate from a well-worn formula, it's often difficult to tell when one song ends and another begins. Even when they do think outside the box, such as on the shoegazing riffs of "Tigers and Sharks," and the quasi-Latin rhythms of closer "The Rumour," they still manage to find time to burst into the prevalent wall of emo noise halfway through, with only the lighters-in-the-air acoustic ballad "Always Attract," (featuring Josh's sister Elissa on backing vocals), having the courage to stick to its more emotive guns. With their constant touring presence and boy band good looks, Take Off Your Colours will undoubtedly find an audience, but it's an unadventurous debut which is only remarkable for how unremarkable it is

tags: you me at six, take off your colours, colors, 2008, flac,

You Me At Six - Hold Me Down (2010) ☠

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Punk Rock
Style: Pop Punk
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 2010 Virgin
AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier
Following an impressive debut album, Take Off Your Colours (2008), that established them as one of England's hottest up-and-coming rock bands, You Me at Six sound great once again on their second full-length effort, Hold Me Down, but are weighed down by an uninventive set of lyrics dwelling to no end on lead singer Josh Franceschi's recent breakup. Just prior to the recording of Hold Me Down, Franceschi broke up with his girlfriend, and in song after song, he alludes to the relationship in his lyrics, finding bountiful inspiration in heartbreak. The lyrics are so direct on songs like "Safer to Hate Her," "There's No Such Thing as Accidental Infidelity," and worst of all, the album-closing "Fireworks," that it's a bit embarrassing to behold, as if Franceschi were singing directly from the tear-stained pages of his personal journal. One wonders what the unnamed girl must think of Hold Me Down, an album almost entirely about her and how much she hurt Franceschi. It's too bad that You Me at Six couldn't have come up with a more inventive set of lyrics. From a musical standpoint, the songs are as good as last time, especially the first couple, "The Consequence" and "Underdog." Producers Matty O'Grady and John Mitchell are at the helm once again, re-creating the sharp-edged punk-pop sound of Take Off Your Colours. The dual-guitar attack of Max Helyer and Chris Miller is the highlight of Hold Me Down, as they come up with several memorable riffs, most notably on "Hard to Swallow," and carry the album along with bassist Matt Barnes and drummer Dan Flint. As for Franceschi, he's a gifted vocalist with charisma to spare, and he's surely the star of the show on Hold Me Down. If only he were a more creative songwriter. Hopefully he gets over his breakup and comes up with better lyrics next time

tags: you me at six, hold me down, 2010, flac,

You Me At Six - Sinners Never Sleep (2011) ☠

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Alternative Rock, Punk Rock
Style: Pop Punk
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 2011 Virgin
AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien
Produced by Garth Richardson (Biffy Clyro, Rage Against the Machine) and with guest appearances from two of the metalcore scene's most notable frontmen, You Me at Six's third album, Sinners Never Sleep, suggest the Surrey quintet are keen to distance themselves from their punk-pop boy band label. The follow-up to their 2010 breakthrough, Hold Me Down, does indeed contain two of the heaviest tracks they've recorded, with "Bite My Tongue," an aggressive slice of crunching metal featuring the vocals of Bring Me the Horizon's Oliver Sykes, and the intense, Pendulum-esque riffs and thrashing beats of "Time Is Money," which also includes the demonic howls of Australian metalcore outfit Parkway Drive's Winston McCall. But elsewhere, Josh Franceschi's emotive tones quiver over a number of more palatable, radio-friendly offerings, the majority of which bear the hallmarks of several bands from across the pond, whether it's Jimmy Eat World on the lighters-in-the-air ballad "Little Bit of Truth"; Panic at the Disco on the theatrical emo rock "The Dilemma"; or the Goo Goo Dolls on the chiming guitars and sweeping strings of soft rock anthem "Crash." The latter, in particular, isn't going to help their credibility-chasing cause, but the album is always much more convincing when it plays to its melodic strengths, as on the soulful, slow-building finale "When We Were Younger," and the '80s-tinged new wave of "This Is the First Thing," than it is when pandering to the Kerrang! masses, as on the formulaic quiet verses/loud chorus formula of "Little Death" and the gang mentality glam rock of lead single "Loverboy." Indeed, there's no shame in appealing to a more commercial crowd, and if You Me at Six could have continued to pursue the album's more mature mainstream moments instead of trying to prove their rawk credentials, Sinners Never Sleep would probably have turned out to be a more consistent affair.

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March 27, 2020

Claudja Barry - Sweet Dynamite (1976)

Country: Canada
Language: English
Genre: Disco, Funk
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© 1796-1993 Lolipop/Hot Records
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson
From the disco era to the 21st century, critics of dance music have often accused it of being mechanical and robotic. To be sure, this has been true of some producer-driven dance recordings, which might grab you with an infectious beat but are lacking in soul, warmth and vocal personality. However, a lot of dance music has been full of warmth and feeling, and Claudja Barry is a prime example. The singer's promising debut album, Sweet Dynamite, was a major hit in clubs, but all of the material holds up nicely away from the dance floor. None of the songs come across as mechanical or insincere, and Barry is as soulful on the haunting, European-flavored "Love for the Sake of Love" as she is on the exuberant "Why Must a Girl Like Me" and the gritty title song, which has as much to do with soul and funk as it does with Euro-disco. Though Barry's vocals are the album's main focus, she lays out on "Live a Little Bit," an infectious instrumental that successfully fuses Euro-disco with African pop and reggae. Produced by J├╝rgen S. Korduletsch, this promising debut went down in history as a true dance classic and is among Barry's most essential albums.

tags: claudja barry, sweet dynamite, 1976, flac,

Claudja Barry - I Wanna Be Loved By You (1978)

Country: Canada
Language: English
Genre: Disco, Funk
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© 1978-1993 Lolipop/Hot Productions
AllMusic Review by Justin Kantor
The outright funkiness of "Give It Up," the third track on I Wanna Be Loved By You, is reason alone to invest in this 1979 set. A harmonious matrimony of soul, funk, and jazzy elements, the arrangement's in-the-pocket bassline, bright horns, and sneaky key change play perfect companion to Barry's fiery yet earnest vocal. But "Give It Up" is merely one facet of a very versatile set: Other highlights include the carnival-esque "Nobody but You," which mingles traditional Spanish rhythms with pop chords; the rocker "Cold Fire"; and the straightforward disco chomper "(Boogie Woogie) Dancing Shoes," a coolly catchy tune that remains the singer's biggest international hit. A close second to Made in Hong Kong, this album is only missing the quirkiness and spontaneity of the former; otherwise, it's still a thoroughly enjoyable listen for dancing or pleasure -- minus the lack of depth that appeared in many other disco records of the time.

tags: claudja barry, i wanna be loved by you, 1978, flac,

March 26, 2020

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Nocturama (2003)

Country: Australia
Genre: Piano Rock, Art Rock
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© 2003 Mute
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra
It is truly sad when artists with great vision and imagination, whose work is filled with power and beauty, just kind of lose it all at once. This could be the first record Nick Cave has made that feels like he is just doing it because it is his job to make records and be Nick Cave. Everything is predictable and sounds like something Cave has done before. The Bad Seeds' edges are smoothed over by the too-slick production; Cave's lyrics are not provocative or funny or much of anything worth hearing. "He Wants You" is a smooth and tired-sounding love song, "Still in Love" is a gothic love song with cheesy lyrics and some sickly singing, and "Wonderful Life" has a nice, slinky beat and a memorable melody that is ruined by generic lyrics. There are also a few surprises of an unpleasant nature on Nocturama: "Bring It On" sounds like alternative rock by-the-numbers; without Cave's vocals it could be the Wallflowers. This could be the first Bad Seeds track to sport a depressingly standard guitar solo over the fade. Longtime Cave fans may need to reach for the smelling salts after hearing it. There are also a couple of songs that revisit the old storm-and-bang days of the Birthday Party and early Bad Seeds. One might say these forays into noisy, aggressive post-punk are commendable or one could say he is treading water he puked out 20 years ago. Add to that the fact that the racing tempos, jagged guitars, and shouted vocals of "Dead Man in My Bed" and the seemingly endless "Babe, I'm on Fire" break up the somnambulant mood of the rest of the record. Actually, while it may be derivative of his glorious past, "Babe, I'm on Fire" is a welcome blast of energy; he should have made it 30 minutes long instead of ten and called it his new record. Apart from that track, Cave sounds like a writer on his 15th book with nothing much left to say, nothing left to do but go through the motions, phoning his performance in with a yawn. His fans should send him a message by leaving Nocturama (his worst record title ever) to gather dust on record store and warehouse shelves. His laziness and weak effort should not be rewarded with your hard-earned cash

tags: nick cave and the bad seeds, nocturama, 2003, flac,

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus (2004)

Country: Australia
Genre: Art Rock
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© 2004 Anti-
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek
When Blixa Bargeld left Nick Cave's Bad Seeds, who would have predicted his departure would result in one of the finest offerings in the band's catalog? Abbatoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus is a double CD or, rather, two completely different albums packaged in one very handsome box with a stylish lyric booklet and subtly colored pastel sleeves. They were recorded in a total of 16 days by producer Nick Launay (Kate Bush, Midnight Oil, Girls Against Boys, Silverchair, INXS, Virgin Prunes, et al.). Abbatoir Blues, the first disc in the set (packaged in pink, of course), is a rock & roll record. Yeah, the same guy who released the Boatman's Call, No More Shall We Part, and Nocturama albums has turned in a pathos-drenched, volume-cranked rocker, full of crunch, punishment -- and taste. Drummer Jim Sclavunos' aggressive, propulsive kit work is the bedrock of this set. It and Mick Harvey's storm-squall guitar playing shake things loose on "Get Ready for Love," which opens the album. As Cave goes right for God in the refrain -- "get ready for love" -- in the maelstrom, a gospel choir roaring "praise Him" responds. His tense, ambivalent obsession with theology is pervasive; he mocks the Western perception of God in the heavens yet seeks the mystery of His nature. That he does so while careening through a wall of noisy rock damage is simply stunning. It leaves the listener revved up and off-center for what comes next. The chorus -- members of the London Community Gospel Choir -- is prevalent on both records; the Bad Seeds' arrangement utilizes them wisely as counterpoint and mirror for Cave's own baritone. "Cannibal's Hymn" begins as a love song musically; it's chocked with Cave's dark wit and irony and ends far more aggressively while retaining its melody. The single, "Nature Boy," finds itself on Scalvunos' big beat. Cave and his piano use love's irony in contrast with cheap innuendo as underlined by the choir in their best soul croon. "Let Them Bells Ring" is a most dignified and emotionally honest tribute to Johnny Cash and the world he witnessed. The Western wrangle of "There She Goes, My Beautiful World" references Morricone's desert cowboy groove against a swirling cacophony of drums, bashing piano, and the chorus swelling on the refrain, while Cave name drops Johnny Thunders and poet Philip Larkin. The pace is fantastic; its drama and musical dynamics are pitched taut, with lulls in all the right places.
The Lyre of Orpheus, by contrast, is a much quieter, more elegant affair. It is more consciously restrained, its attention to craft and theatrical flair more prevalent. But that doesn't make it any less satisfying. It is a bit of a shock after Abbatoir Blues, but it isn't meant for playing immediately afterward; it is a separate listening experience. The title track tells the myth's tale in Cave's ironical fashion, where God eventually throws a hammer at the subject and Eurydyce threatens to shove his lyre up his nether orifice. Warren Ellis' swampy bouzouki and Thomas Wydler's more stylized drumming move the band in the tense, skeletal swirl where chorus and Cave meet the music in a loopy dance. But in "Breathless," the bard of the love song emerges unfettered at the top of his poetic gift. On "Babe You Turn Me On," he wraps a bawdy yet tender love song in a country music waltz to great effect. But on this album, along with the gentleness, is experimentation with textures and wider dimensions. The sparser sound is freer, less structured; it lets time slip through the songs rather than govern them -- check the wall of Ellis' strings married to a loping acoustic guitar on the moving "Carry Me" as an example. Cave's nastiness and wit never remains absent for long, however, and on "O Children," the album's closer, it returns with this skin-crawlingly gorgeous ballad of murder and suicide. This set is an aesthetic watermark for Cave, a true high point in a long career that is ever looking forward.

tags: nick cave and the bad seeds, abattoir blues, the lyre of orpheus, 2004, flac,

Kool Keith - Sex Style (2000 Reissue)

*Reissued in 2000 by Funky Ass Records
This reissue contains 18 tracks total.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 1997-2000 Funky Ass Records
AllMusic Review by Steve Huey
The first solo album released under Kool Keith's own name, Sex Style expands the dirtier parts of Dr. Octagonecologyst into a near-concept album. Sometimes a pimp, sometimes a pervert, Keith dubs his new approach "pornocore," cribbing dialogue from sex flicks to support astoundingly explicit raps that go places 2 Live Crew never had the capacity to imagine. Not only that, but when Keith turns his attention to inferior MCs, his disses are usually couched in elaborate sexual metaphors (a striking number of which involve water sports). Some songs do deviate from the theme, or at least tone it down a little, and while a few serve as a welcome respite, others simply don't have as much personality. The over the top raunch is Keith's main focus, and that's where the vast majority of the album's most imaginative rhymes come from. That makes Sex Style a polarizing entry in Keith's catalog. Musically, it's one of his most consistent solo outings, especially if you're just looking at the ones under his own name. It definitely benefits from production by KutMasta Kurt, who may not be as wildly inventive as Dan the Automator, but knows how to frame Keith's idiosyncratic flow with deep, funky beats. Thus, the album is borderline necessary for Keith fans; it really depends on your tolerance for the extremity of songs like "Sex Style," "Don't Crush It," "Make Up Your Mind," "Regular Girl," "Little Girls," or "Lovely Lady." But it is a chance to hear one of the freakiest rappers of all time at his freakiest.

tags: kool keith, sex style, 1997, 2000, flac,

March 25, 2020

Cephalic Carnage - Xenosapien (2007)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Grindcore
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© 2007 Relapse Records
AllMusic Review by Greg Prato
There are some extreme metal bands that appear to have one single goal in sight, and that is to be deemed "the heaviest band on the planet." Well, Cephalic Carnage are certainly one of those bands in the front running for this title, as they've made a career out of pushing sonic boundaries. "So heavy it hurts" is a fitting description for their 2007 release, Xenosapien, which is one long, rapid-fire metallic frenzy from beginning to end. You'll become breathless just listening to the musical acrobatics on display throughout such tracks as "Divination & Volition," and you'll get a lump in your throat hearing how screamer Lenzig Leal pushes his vocal cords over the limit on "Touched by an Angel." Metal never sounded as precise nor as consistently punishing from beginning to end as it does throughout Xenosapien. The perfect soundtrack to listen to the next time you're sitting in the waiting room of your local dungeon's torture chamber.

tags:cephalic carnage, xenosapien, 2007, flac,