Year 4, Day 40: Metallica – Ride the Lightning

For whom the bell tolls… Metallica rewrites the thrash metal playbook for generations to come with “Ride the Lightning”.

Year 4, Album 40: Metallica – Ride the Lightning

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Track List

  1. Fight Fire With Fire
  2. Ride the Lightning
  3. For Whom the Bell Tolls
  4. Fade to Black
  5. Trapped Under Ice
  6. Escape
  7. Creeping Death
  8. The Call of Ktulu

About the Album

Ride the Lightning is the second studio album from American heavy metal band, MetallicaThe entire album was recorded in three weeks from February 20th 1984 to March 14th 1984. The album was released on July 27th 1984 through Megaforce Records. The album peaked at 100 on the Billboard 200. Despite low ranking on the Billboard 200, the album has been certified 6x Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

Thoughts on the Album

So here we are… day number 40; we made it to the end of this year’s project. 39 albums down, one last one to go. Today’s album is truly a classic from the 1980s. It’s a classic in the sense that not only was it genre defining, but it ran contrary to musical sound of the decade. Metallica‘s Ride the Lightning is an all around excellent album that 32 years later still holds up excellently when compared to it’s contemporaries.

You know, I never really understand why people who love music absolutely hate the genres of metal and punk.I mean I can understand that on a certain level some people can’t connect with it. But It’s because of albums like this one that people love metal. The music is powerful and there is a swagger about that is confident, but not overbearing or off-putting. Ride the Lightning is one of those incredibly rare metal albums that is as equally charming and powerful, without it being too gimmicky. But I digress, we can talk about philosophy later…

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With Ride the Lightning, every track experiments musically and exceeds those experiments tenfold. Each experiment is a mighty success. For example, the album opener, Fight Fire With Fire, has a sort of pseudo-classical introduction with acoustic guitar (and a harp!) before it breaks down the sound barrier and becomes one of the band’s finest and heaviest tracks in their catalog. The guitar riffs are insanely fast, which compliment the equally fast and pounding drums. While the bass grooves are there, it doesn’t shine like the drums and guitar do.

Fight Fire with Fire is followed up by the eponymous track, Ride the Lightning. The guitar intro by Kirk Hammett is excellently play before the main riff kicks in. The lyrics, about a man who was wrongly accused of murder and sent to death via the electric chair, are nothing short of pure brilliance. The we arrive at For Whom the Bell Tolls, arguably one of the greatest metal songs of all time. The church bell ringing to start the intro sends chills down your spine as the bass riff begins the song. And yes, it is a bass guitar and not electric though is sounds like an electric guitar… thanks to the musical theory/knowledge of the late Cliff Burton. The track seeming switches riffs and sounds excellently.

One of the other great tracks on here is Fade to Black, a haunting metal ballad about suicide/considering committing suicide. The track begins with a low-key acoustic driven melody before it gets ripped and slashed open by electric guitars playing a wordless chorus and ends with a wrenching guitar solo that plays over the top of a lyrical rhythm figure. Another highlight of the album includes, Creeping Death. The lyrics of Creeping Death are magnificent. The chorus is both powerful and catchy, something that is rare, even in other genres. The musicianship on the track is excellent.

Conclusion

… And there you have it. 40 albums in 40 days. Ride the Lightning is an album that not only stands the test of time, but sounds just good if not better than it’s contemporaries. Essentially, Ride the Lightning rewrote the playbook for generations of thrash metal (and metal) bands to follow.

Year 4, Day 39: The Bravery – The Bravery

The Bravery’s self-titled, eponymous debut album features a slick take on 1980’s new wave and 2000’s post-punk revival/modern rock.

Year 4, Day 39: The Bravery – The Bravery

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Track List

  1. An Honest Mistake
  2. No Brakes
  3. Fearless
  4. Tyrant
  5. Give In
  6. Swollen Summer
  7. Public Service Announcement
  8. Out of Line
  9. Unconditional
  10. The Ring Sing
  11. Rites of Spring

About the Album

The Bravery is the self-titled debut album from New York alternative rock/indie rock band, The Bravery. The album was recorded in 2004 and released on March 14th 2005 through Polydor Records in the United Kingdom and Island Records in the United States. The track An Honest Mistake, was featured in the EA SPORTS video game MVP Baseball 2005. The track Unconditional was featured in the Activision video game Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland. And track Swollen Summer was featured in the PlayStation 2 game, Gran Turismo 4.

Thoughts on the Album

Last two albums of the year. Let’s do this.The mid-2000s were an interesting era of music. You had the emergence of genres like dance punk which were offshoots of pop-punk and alternative/indie rock. That’s where The Bravery enter. Their debut album, The Bravery was an incredibly slick twist on 1980s new wave and dance rock fused with modern rock of the 2000s. The eleven track album is pure and luscious synth driven dance punk. Or if you would call it, new wave revival… complete with chugging guitar riffs, bouncing bass, hi-hats, and luscious synth riffs.

Lead single, Unconditional, is one of the best songs on the album. The steady and cascading drums drive the song while the high synth line compliments it. Frontman Sam Endicott‘s low almost guttural voice croons an urgent plea…

I just want, I just want love
I just want something
Something for nothing

What impressed me about this album is the ability of the band shift from Franz Ferdinand style dance rock/punk to soaring, guitar-driven choruses, much in the vein of the The Killers.

Another strong song on the album is Fearless. The track contains a bright and somewhat brassy synth hook that’ll have you foot tapping along to it. Another standout is the funky Public Service Announcement. The track musically has a funky drum beat, a bright and bouncing bassline, and a simple, yet beautiful guitar riff. It’s a song that has a sense of fun and abandon. Of course, then there is my favorite track from the album, the opener, An Honest Mistake. When I first heard the song in MVP Baseball 2005, I was instantly hooked. Everything about the song I loved. The guitars, the synth, the drums, the bass, the vocals… everything.

Conclusion

In high school there was always a debate: The Bravery vs. The Killers. It was essentially my generation’s version of Metallica vs. Iron Maiden. Personally, I always favored The Bravery, but both made excellent music. The Bravery is an album representative of the new wave-post punk revival of the mid-2000s. Complete with catchy synth hooks, funky and driven drums, and pop-punk/dance punk guitar riffs, The Bravery makes for a fun album to listen to.

Year 4, Day 38: The Offspring – Americana

The Offspring’s “Americana” is one of the albums that defines the 1990s.

Year 4, Day 38: The Offspring – Americana

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Track List

  1. Welcome
  2. Have You Ever
  3. Staring at the Sun
  4. Pretty White (For a White Guy)
  5. The Kids Aren’t Alright
  6. Feelings
  7. She’s Got Issues
  8. Walla Walla
  9. The End of the Line
  10. No Brakes
  11. Why Don’t You Get a Job?
  12. Americana
  13. Pay the Man

About the Album

Americana is the fifth studio album from American punk rock band, The Offspring. The track Pay the Man was recorded in 1996 while the rest of the songs were recorded from July-September of 1998. The Album was released on November 10th 1998 through Columbia Records. The album debuted at number six on the Billboard 200 and peaked at number two on the chart while spending 22 nonconsecutive weeks in the top 10 of the Billboard 200. The album is certified 5x platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

Thoughts on the Album

The final three albums. Man, I’m got some good albums in store for you. The 1990s were a weird time for music… I mean it was full of polar extremes: grunge and punk to boy and girl groups. Following their unexpected (and unprecedented) success of their third album, SmashThe Offspring where looking at a major question/decision/problem: what direction do you head in next? Enter today’s album, Americana.

The first thing that sticks out about the album, is the album cover and artwork. It is through the artwork that you see the themes of the album. Americana is personified as the evil creature, or a roach, each with an arm/tentacle that is holding an item that responsible for or a contributing factor to the decadence of American society (i.e. guns, drugs, television/other media, fast food, etc.). This is reflected by the musical content on the album such as an ode to urban decay and the disappointment of adulthood in The Kids Aren’t Alright; the low-life, slacker anthem, Why Don’t You Get a Job?; or the delinquent-woeing, Walla Walla.

The track that sticks out on the album is the one that is most recognizable: Pretty Fly (For a White Guy). While the song was panned as joke, it was massive hit that received equally massive airplay on the radio and TV screens thanks to an equally clever music video. The song itself is infectiously catchy, and equally clever and witty. The song does deserve some credit, it was an excellent commentary on a certain type of person from the 1990s that people had to put up with.

The following track, The Kids Are Alright is no slouch. It is a straightforward rocker. The riffs are excellent, the lyrics are sharp and biting, and it has the ability to make you sing along to it. The album opener, Have You Ever, combines blistering punk with intelligent lyrics and excellent melodies. Walla Walla is seemingly another joke song that is blisteringly fast and tells the story of a man who goes to prison (hence the reference to Walla Walla or Washington State Prison). Staring at the Sun and No Brakes are straight up punk rockers: no gimmicks, just guitar, bass, drums, excellent melodies, and excellent vocals.

Why Don’t You Get a Job? is another catchy track, filled with 1990s cheese pop-rock. The track is the most blatant rip off of the Beatles’ Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da. Which is incredibly ironic because the track lambastes the shack who takes and leeches off others. Ironic indeed. Americana, the eponymous track, is a dark and brooding mid-tempo rocker. The track is their most socio-critical track ever written. It is a highly underrated song.

Conclusion

Americana is arguably The Offspring‘s best album to date and one of the best rock albums of the 1990s period. While many dismiss the album thanks to pop-punk singles (and hits) Pretty Fly (For a White Guy) and Why Don’t You Get a Job?, there is no denying the massive success that the album is. For better or worse, you can see/hear the influence this album had on pop-punk bands of the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Year 4, Day 37: Van Halen – 1984

Van Halen’s “1984” is a massive and smash hit that puts the band’s instrumental prowess on display.

Year 4, Day 37: Van Halen – 1984

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Track List

  1. 1984
  2. Jump
  3. Panama
  4. Top Jimmy
  5. Drop Dead Legs
  6. Hot for Teacher
  7. I’ll Wait
  8. Girl Gone Bad
  9. House of Pain

About the Album

1984 is the sixth studio album from American rock band Van Halen. The album was recorded in 1983 and released on January 9th 1984 through Warner Bros. Records. The album has sold well over 20 million copies in the United States and is certified 10x Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). 1984 reached (and peaked) at number two on the Billboard 200 (oddly enough, right behind Michael Jackson‘s Thriller).

Thoughts on the Album

We are down to the wire here on the project with the final four albums of 2016. So let’s throw it back to the 1980’s where the cheese was strong in rock (and music in general). The decade of the 80s was filled with bands releasing massive hit after hit and receiving massive radio airplay. So today’s album is none other than one of the decade’s biggest hits, Van Halen‘s 1984.

The album opens with the primer to one of the biggest rock hits of decade (Jump), with 1984. The eponymous track is more than just a spacey sounding filler track. It sets up Jump perfectly as an instrumental. The 67 second instrumental gently introduces you to the synthesizer riff of Jump. The result was a four-plus minute massive rock hit that is nothing more than pure pop/rock bliss. Jump is a massive arena rocker that can still be heard throughout sports stadiums and arenas everywhere. The emphasis of the track is less on the guitar and more on the synth riff.

Jump is immediately followed up by the equally impressive Panama. While Jump draws on the more pop sound of the decade, Panama brings it right back to the rock. It’s a straight-up rocker. Compared to classic Van Halen rockers, Ain’t Talking About Love and The Cradle Will RockPanama stacks up incredibly well. Of course, then there is Hot for Teacher, one of the band’s most recognizable single/music video. The track builds with a sense of urgency until it releases that energy in explosive choruses.

Drop Dead Legs is a track that is driven by some gritty hard rock guitar chords and some pounding bass drum stomps. Driven by both of those and colored with the group’s seemingly effortless harmonies. I’ll Wait, the second single from the album was co-written by Michael MacDonald. It is a pulsing track rife with prominent keys and Rototom drums, along with a synthesized bass line. The album closes with the metallic sheen of House of Pain.

Conclusion

1984 puts the instrumental prowess of Van Halen on display. It s arguably the best showcase for the band’s songwriting ability. Hell, it may just be the band’s best album period. Complete with 1980s cheese rock, pop hooks, and  1984 is a product of the decade; which is not necessarily a bad thing. Van Halen‘s 1984 is a colossal commercial success, as well as a massive music success.

Year 4, Day 36: Social Distortion – Social Distortion

Social Distortion’s eponymous third album is a quintessential piece of [punk] rock music from the 1990s. It’s still an influential album 26 years later.

Year 4, Day 36: Social Distortion – Social Distortion

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Track List

  1. So Far Away
  2. Let It Be Me
  3. Story of My Life
  4. Sick Boys
  5. Ring of Fire
  6. Ball and Chain
  7. It Coulda Been Me
  8. She’s a Knockout
  9. A Place in My Heart
  10. Drug Train

About the Album

Social Distortion is the eponymous third studio album from American punk rock band, Social Distortion. The album was recorded in August through October 1989 and released through Epic Records on March 27th 1990. The album is certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). It is the band’s most successful album. Tracks Story of My Life and Ring of Fire can be found and played in the video game Rock BandBall and Chain can be heard in the video game, Saints Row: The Third.

Thoughts on the Album

Let’s finish this year strong. It seems I featured a lot of punk rock on the project this year. I discovered a lot of the bands I listen to in high school… Social Distortion is one them. For a punk band, they have a certain almost country rock aesthetic to the sound. But the 1990s were a time of experimentation for bands, especially punk bands as they fought for plays over the airwaves. What gives this album’s uniqueness is the voice of frontman, Mike Ness.

One of the things I noticed when I first listened to this album way back when, was all the choruses sound repetitive. But repetitive choruses, when done properly, are excellent. This album sees the repetitive choruses done right and proper. The album opens with So Far Away, a track that leaves a great impression. It’s a great rocker that’ll pick you up when you’re having a bad day. Let it Be Me, is a fast paced punk song rather than a rocker with rockabilly styling, like So Far Away. The backing vocals during the chorus are excellent.

Let it Be Me leads right into one of the best (and most well known) Social Distortion tracks ever, Story of My LifeStory of My Life is a fun and infectiously catchy song that people will have no problem singing and airbanding along to. Immediately following up Story of My Life is a cover version of Johnny Cash‘s Ring of Fire. It’s a harder and faster version of the classic country hit by Cash. While it doesn’t carry the same “classic hit” factor as the original or tracks Story of My Life and Ball and Chain, it’s still a highlight of the album… complete with pick slides and dive bombing.

Ring of Fire is immediately followed up by the other massive hit from the album, Ball and Chain. The track is one of the longest on the album, clocking in at 5 minutes and 43 seconds… and of course every single second of the song is one of pure beauty and excellence. It’s an incredibly emotional vocal performance that Mike Ness seemingly encapsulates flawlessly. Other tracks to note, include the seemingly country rocker, Drug Train complete with harmonica; She’s a Knockout, and Sick Boys.

Conclusion

This album is quintessential 1990s punk rock music that dominated the alternative and college rock radio airwaves. Social Distortion is album that effectively, if not effortlessly, mixes genres. The influence of Social Distortion has been incredible and is still noticeable today.

Year 4, Day 35: Houston Calls – A Collection of Short Stories

New Jersey’s knack for grinding out excellent pop-punk continues with Houston Calls’ debut album, “A Collection of Short Stories”.

Year 4, Day 35: Houston Calls – A Collection of Short Stories

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Track List

  1. Sunrise Goodbyes
  2. Exit, Emergency
  3. Bob and Bonnie
  4. Elephant and Castle
  5. Amtrak is For Lovers
  6. High Rise
  7. One More Won’t Hurt
  8. Bottle of Red, Bottle of Sprite
  9. A Line in the Sand
  10. A Pen and A Piece of Mind
  11. The Better Part of Valor

About the Album

A Collection of Short Stories is the official debut album from New Jersey Pop-Punk/Power-Pop band, Houston Calls. The album was released on August 2nd 2005 through Rushmore Records, a sister label of Drive-Thru Records.

Thoughts on the Album

Here we go, the homestretch. The final seven albums for year 4. It’s almost kind of sad… almost. You know, more as much as I rag on New Jersey, the do produce some killer pop-punk/power-pop music. Well… it’s more than just pop-punk, but punk in generally. It must benefit being in-between two different music scenes in New York City and Philadelphia.

Anyway… today’s album is the debut from New Jersey pop-punk/power-pop band Houston CallsA Collection of Short Stories. The album is a ridiculously catchy album that is in the same vein as Midtown, except with more of a pop edge to it. The guitar work is crisp and thick, the drums perfectly compliment the powerful and plentiful vocals and harmonies. It is a collection of fun, fast paced pop-punk (or power-pop depending on who you ask) songs.

The song that most people associate with this band is the second track, Exit, Emergency. It is a perfect dance-punk hit that’ll have you both singing and dancing along to it. It’s chorus is huge and soaring to the point where it is almost obnoxious… but it’s almost impossible NOT to sing along to it…

So I’ll kill the doubt,

I’ll put the fire out,

extinguish everything,

might even forget your name…

The intro track, Sunrise Goodbyes, is a track that is fast paced and has synths that are in the same vein as Motion City Soundtrack. The chorus is insanely catchy and the harmonies are almost perfect. Bob and Bonnie is a very nice mid-to-fast tempo rocker that lyrically is a ballad, but musically is mid-to-fast tempo. It’s a new twist on the stereotypical love song. One of my favorite tracks is Amtrak is For Lovers. The track’s chorus will have you rewinding the song over and over again just to hear it again…

No joke… she says “I’ll leave you. I never meant to treat you like this, I can’t believe it. I’ll give you three more chances then I’m gone for good.” He swears… he’s really worth it. Can’t have time to show it, this routine is over as he says to her, it hits her like a ton of bricks…

Conclusion

While it’s a good album, there is a lack of depth between the tracks. The second half of the album sounds exactly like the first, which is a slight drawback. The production of the album is excellent, however. The guitars are thick and crunchy. The bass grooves fill out their sequences well, the drums are deep and rich. Given when the album was released (2005) it’s excellent pop-punk. Nowadays, it’s a good album that is lacking some depth and differences between the songs. However it’s an energetic and refined pop-punk/power-pop album.

Year 4, Day 34: Hall and Oates – Abandoned Luncheonette

The pinnacle of the “Philadelphia sound”, Hall & Oates find their sound and their direction with “Abandoned Luncheonette”.

Year 4, Day 34: Hall and Oates – Abandoned Luncheonette 

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Track List

  1. When the Morning Comes
  2. Had I Known You Better Than
  3. Las Vegas Turnaround [The Stewardess Song]
  4. She’s Gone
  5. I’m Just a Kid [Don’t Make Me Feel Like a Man]
  6. Abandoned Luncheonette
  7. Lady Rain
  8. Laughing Boy
  9. Everytime I Look at You

About the Album

Abandoned Luncheonette is the second studio album from Philadelphia rock duo Hall & Oates. The album was recorded in 1973 and released on November 3rd 1973 through Atlantic Records. The album, twenty nine years after it was released was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.

Thoughts on the Album

Everyone has their own favorite Hall & Oates song or album. Hall & Oates is one of the few bands everyone likes/loves.When I think of music from Philadelphia, Hall & Oates is one of the first musical acts to come to mind. They were the pioneers of Philadelphia Soul, a particular and unique variety of blue-eyed soul. Today’s album is their second album, Abandoned Luncheonette.

Hall & Oates have a knack for creating sleek, blue-eyed Philadelphia soul infused rock. Abandoned Luncheonette is the first indication of this duo’s talent for it. Highlighted by the single She’s Gone, which would later become a massive hit in 1975/76 when it was released. Speaking of She’s Gone, from the organ in the intro to the duo’s shared vocals on the great and soaring chorus, the track has a very warm sound. There is a tenor saxophone solo that leads up to the track’s climax: the duo swapping alternating cries of “She’s gone” as the song fades out. It is single-handedly the best song the duo ever wrote. Period. End of discussion.

The track, I’m Just a Kid [Don’t Make Me Feel Like A Man], is one of the best songs that Oates ever wrote. It’s a quiet acoustic number. Hall belts out the words like there’s no tomorrow. The track builds itself into a crescendo for the final overture, the last chorus where the drums and keyboards kick in and Hall croons…

I’m just a kid, don’t make me feel like a man

Considering it is a song about robbing the cradle, it’s pretty damned good.

Regardless of how many copies that Abandoned Luncheonette actually sold, it was the record in which the duo found themselves and their sound. The cream of the crop from this album are: When the Morning Comes, She’s Gone, Las Vegas Turnaround, I’m Just a Kid [Don’t Make Me Feel Like a Man], and the title track, Abandoned Luncheonette.

Conclusion

It’s funny that after the album War Babies, the Philly soul would be melted down and recast as slick, sleek, and polished pop-rock of the late 1970s/1980s. Abandoned Luncheonette is the pinnacle of Philadelphia soul and something that the duo would not recreate despite their stratosphere rise to the top of the Billboard charts in the 1980s.