Year 5, Day 33: Hardcore’s most influential album… “Damaged”

Year 5, Day 33: Black Flag – Damaged

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Track List

  1. Rise Above
  2. Spray Paint
  3. Six Pack
  4. What I See
  5. TV Party
  6. Thirsty and Miserable
  7. Police Story
  8. Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie
  9. Depression
  10. Room 13
  11. Damaged II
  12. No More
  13. Padded Cell
  14. Life of Pain
  15. Damaged I

About the Album

Damaged is the debut studio album from American hardcore punk band, Black Flag. Recorded in August of 1981. the album was released on December 5, 1981 through SST Records. The album was considered by many experts and fans to one of the genre defining and quintessential hardcore punk albums.

Thoughts on the Album

The 1980’s were a quagmire for most genres of music, but none bigger than the west coast, California punk scene. That is where Black Flag and debut album, 1981’s Damaged comes in. A visceral and imposing physical presence, Damaged has yet to find an equal. There is a ferocity on this album that can’t be contained. Black Flag illustrate their problems and frustrations in an incredibly vivid and enthralling manner. What you get is the sound of pure adolescent rage lashing out, but in a manner that is more than just a whole ‘nother layer of noise. It’s delivered with such conviction, vigor, and precision that is elevated to an art form.

The album is fast paced, loud, raw, and gut-wrenching. Rise Above acts not only as the album’s opener, but as the catalyst. At almost two and half minutes long, it’s faced paced and in your face.

Rise above! We’re gonna rise above!

It is a song that details the relationship between the general public and hardcore punk scene. A song about how the band will rise above the restrictions of society. Blink and you’ll miss the second track, Spray Paint. 34 seconds and it’s over before you know it. It’s quick, punchy, and catchy.

TV Party, is probably one of the strangest, and funniest songs I’ve ever heard. It is more of a hardcore punk “party” song. It’s set up with gang vocals. Satire and parody at it’s finest. A song that criticizes the lazy beer drinking fools who will at every moment, make any excuse to stay inside and watch television, instead of taking risks and venturing out into the world. Six Pack, mocks those alcoholics and drug abusers for their weak excuses. Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie, a song that mocks the selfish for their attitudes. It’s songs like these that paint a picture of a sense of vague hopelessness that blankets both the hardcore community and humanity in general. But it comes back to Rise Above, which can be viewed as a positive anthem.

Conclusion

While there are no bad songs per se, there are quite a few mediocre ones. That seems to plague the punk genre a lot. It’s an incredibly solid album that deserves all the praise it receives. Tracks like Rise Above, Six Pack, TV Party, Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie, and Thirsty and Miserable really make the album shine. Considering how “controversial” the album was and how it could “brought upon the fall of America’s youth”, it serves as a guide for many in punk. It’s become an important album of it’s time (and from it’s time).

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Year 5, Day 32: By The Way…

Year 5, Day 32: Red Hot Chili Peppers – By The Way

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Track List

  1. By The Way
  2. Universally Speaking
  3. This is the Place
  4. Dosed
  5. Don’t Forget Me
  6. The Zephyr Song
  7. Can’t Stop
  8. I Could Die For You
  9. Midnight
  10. Throw Away Your Television
  11. Cabron
  12. Tear
  13. On Mercury
  14. Minor Thing
  15. Warm Tape
  16. Venice Queen

About the Album

By the Way is the eighth studio album by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The album was recorded from November 2001 through May 2002 and released on July 9th 2002 through Warner Bros. Records. The album peaked at number two on the Billboard 200 as well as peaking at number one on many different international charts. The album is certified 2x platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.

Thoughts on the Album

The Red Hot Chili Peppers will always have a soft spot in my heart. They were one of the first bands that I listened to. They are a unique blend of funk and hard rock that is  relatively easy to listen to and rock out to. With By the Way, the band’s eighth studio album, they have crafted an excellent album with a sophisticated sound but not compromising on their trademark style. The album is a heavy combination of melodic harmonies and their gritty funk and hard rock.

By the Way marks a continuation of the band’s reformation of their sound, going from masters of the funk-rap rock hybrid from the 80’s and early 90’s to more radio friendly alt-rock. Lead single and titular lead off track, By the Way could act like a brief history of the band. Take the Hollywood and gritty funk, combine it with lush gentle harmonies, and some killer basslines by The Flea… and you get By the Way. It’s a track that picks up where Californication left off, as most of the rest of the tracks feel like they are in the same vein as Californication or Scar Tissue.

The Zephyr Song is one of the best tracks on the album. A track that starts off with an electronic drum beat and a simple guitar riff. throughout the riff, the Flea enters, then lead singer Anthony Kiedis enters and starts rapping the verse. The chorus is uplifting, but it gets cheesy and repetitive. However, guitarist John Frusciante‘s solo after a shorter second chorus is absolutely stunning to listen to. It’s an incredibly simple one, but it fits the song perfectly. The chorus returns and leaves you with a warm feeling in your heart… probably… different people feel different things.

Another example of the melodic balladry that is found throughout the album is with Universally Speaking. It is a track that sums up just how accessible the band’s sound has become. Dosed highlights some beautiful moments on the album. The guitar work is absolutely gorgeous, emotional, and unforgettable. The chorus harmonizes Kiedis’ voice with Frusciante’s in a manner that is beautiful as well.

Conclusion

By the Way, is a long album., clocking in at almost an hour and nine minutes long. The album is slightly front loaded, with most of the album’s experimentation coming after the first half. The album builds off of Californication and adds it’s own spin on things. It marks a continuation of the maturation process started with the previous album. The production of By the Way is crystal clear and sharp. The Red Hot Chili Peppers expanded on their sound and delved more pop rock sensibilities. It’s another fine entry into their discography that get often times gets overlooked. A great album that sets up a process started with Californication and continued with Stadium Arcadium.

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Year 5, Day 31: The Zutons’ say that “You Can Do Anything”

Year 5, Day 31: The Zutons – You Can Do Anything

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Track List

  1. Harder and Harder
  2. Dirty Rat
  3. What’s Your Problem
  4. You Could Make the Four Walls Cry
  5. Family of Leeches
  6. Don’t Get Caught
  7. Bumbag
  8. Always Right Behind You
  9. Put a Little Aside
  10. Freak
  11. Give Me a Reason
  12. Little Red Door

About the Album

You Can Do Anything is the third and final album from English rock band, The Zutons. The album was released on June 2nd 2008 through Deltasonic Records in the United Kingdom. The album peaked at number six on the United Kingdom Albums Charts. The album is also the first album with the band’s new lead guitarist Paul Molloy after the departure of former lead guitarist Boyan Chowdhury.

Thoughts on the Album

The third album for most bands is make or break for them. This album had “recipe for disaster” written all over it as they had the rather acrimonious departure of their lead guitarist, Boyan Chowdhury and produced in Los Angeles by a producer known for more working with hard rock acts. Strangely enough however, they found a way to regroup and stick together to produce a consistent and concise albeit middling album, You Can Do Anything. The album continues to highlight their seemingly eclectic influences (think of everything from Funkadelic to Madness to Captain Beefheart).

The problem is, while the is consistent and concise, it’s more towards the middling side. The album opens with the scorcher, Harder and Harder. A track that has a certain kind of swagger about it. The band strikes gold with Harder and Harder right off the bad, but then can’t follow it up with Dirty RatDirty Rat seems like the band tried too hard to make a ballad, but got lost along the way. While it’s atmospheric, it’s aimless. However, they recover nicely with the foot-stomping What’s Your Problem.

Other than What’s Your Problem and You Could Make the Four Walls Cry, the only true gem and instant hit found is the lead single, Always Right Behind You. Always Right Behind You is a roughly three and a half minute jazz rock party tune. It’s got a glam rock sheen all about it. While a cheesy track, it’s high quality cheese. Going back to You Could Make the Four Walls Cry, makes gives the song it’s strength is the vocals from saxophonist Abi Harding.

Conclusion

A consistent and concise albeit middling effort. While there are diamonds in the rough, like Harder and Harder, What’s Your Problem, You Could Make the Four Walls Cry, and Always Right Behind You, there’s just not enough there. It’s a decent album that is hampered by sub-par songwriting and just overall blandness in a shade of beige. However, there the track like lead sing Always Right Behind You and What’s Your Problem are able to lift the album up if only to decent.

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Year 5, Day 30: Some “American Candy” from The Maine

Year 5, Day 30: The Maine – American Candy

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Track List

  1. Miles Away
  2. Same Suit, Different Tie
  3. My Hair
  4. English Girls
  5. 24 Floors
  6. Diet Soda Society
  7. Am I Pretty?
  8. (Un)Lost
  9. American Candy
  10. Another Night on Mars

About the Album

American Candy is the fifth studio album from Arizona based rock band, The Maine. The album was recorded from November to December 2014 and released on March 15th 2015 through 8123 Records. The album debuted at number 37 on the Billboard 200, number three on the Billboard Independent Albums, and number nine on the Billboard Top Rock Albums charts.

Thoughts on the Album

You know, modern rock, much like pop-punk and alternative rock, are crowded genres in today’s music scene. In order to separate yourself from everyone else, you have to create something that no one has heard before. That’s where The Maine come in. The Maine are a testament to how they have succeeded in the genres of alternative and modern rock since 2007 when compared to their counterparts. Since then they grown (and grown up) and matured their sound without compromising their core values, and adapted their sound to an ever shifting music scene. And thus you have one of their most well rounded albums to date, American Candy.

The album starts off the laid back, barn-burning opener, Miles Away. It’s got an air of Americana and heartland rock. The chorus soars and is immensely catchy, as you will find yourself singing along. I can see myself cruising friends down the Turnpike or some other highway singing along to this jam. It is an anthem, and pays homage to all of the homes away from home while on the road. Another track that found in the same vein as Miles Away, is English Girls. It’s a track with another infectiously catchy chorus that packs punch. English Girls seems to channel a very 90’s rock feel to it with it’s guitar riffs and chords. The song is a clear winner from the album.

The second track, Same Suit, Different Tie is a perfect compliment to Miles Away and provides for a great transition to My Hair. My Hair, is the first track to take risks and experiment on the album. My Hair has slow churning verses that just give way to a jam session of a chorus. It provides variety and diversity, keeping the pace on the album; all while keeping the album’s first half from becoming too congested. 24 Floors is easily one of the most lyrically intense songs on the album. It is a poignant and sincere track. Probably my favorite track from the album, just for how beautiful it is.

The entire lynch pin of the album rests with the eponymous track, American Candy. A track that is explosive. It pulls out all of the stops as it represents the band’s ability to continue to push their sound to the next level. The album closes with a massive sing-a-long in Another Night on MarsAnother Night on Mars reminds a lot of the closing track on their album, Can’t Stop, Won’t StopWe’ll All Be… a strong end to an incredibly strong album.

Conclusion

The Maine are one of the hardest working bands in the music industry. Yet despite being one of the hardest working bands in the industry, they are still vastly underrated. American Candy is an incredibly strong, refreshing, and clever album. It may not pack as much punch as previous releases from the band, it is consistent throughout and stays relatively true to their signature sound. There are many catchy and carefree jams on this album that’ll have you singing along to them. It’s an album that despite the simplicity of the individual parts, it’s more than just that; more than just a sum of it’s parts. As the band states in Am I Pretty?

There’s beauty and grace, in the flaws of your face.

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Year 5, Day 29: This “Makeshift Monster” from 18th & Addison brings more joy than fright

Year 5, Day 29: 18th & Addison – Makeshift Monster

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Track List

  1. War
  2. Moving Mountains
  3. Postcards
  4. Hide & Seek
  5. My Old Skin
  6. Disaster by Design
  7. All & Everything
  8. Knives
  9. Little Secrets
  10. Fix Me Again
  11. Under the Water

About the Album

Makeshift Monster is an album from New Jersey based band, 18th & Addison. The album was released on July 15th 2016 through their own label 18th & Addison LLC.

Thoughts on the Album

I remember creating a playlist on Spotify and coming across recommended songs to add. One of the songs to add to said playlist was Like Porcelain by 18th & Addison. Skeptical, I clicked play and was immediately blown away by the production value and the sound. It was crisp, but raw. It was so melodic and catchy, I listened to it about five more times before checking out the band’s Little Parasites EP. From there, liking what I heard, I moved on to today’s album, Makeshift Monster.

Here’s the thing: anyone can make pop-punk. Anyone. But not everyone can make GOOD/GREAT/EXCELLENT pop-punk. That my friends, is an art form. It’s an art form that 18th & Addison painted perfectly with this album. Every song has such rich and lush melodies that just catapult you into every song. I’ve found that dual vocals rarely seem to work, but the dual vocals on this album are both wonderful, but are blended seamlessly throughout. I feel like an excellent example can heard on the tenth track, Fix Me Again. Both voices compliment each other perfectly on the this track (and throughout the rest of the album). I think one of the reasons why I loved Fix Me Again, isn’t because its an acoustic number, but because it offers contrast. It’s a softer, lighter track that provides some levity. It provides some contrast when paired up with the preceding track, Little Secrets.

War, the lead single of the album, is probably one of the more “heavier” tracks on the album, and has serious power pop tone to it. It’s complete with some rather striking riffs that back the song with some high octane energy. I feel like War and the follow up track Moving Mountains would’ve fit on a radio station like Y-100. But since Y-100 (rest in peace) is no longer around, I feel like both of those track should receive airplay on Radio 104.5. One of the other standouts is All & Everything. It is a lyrically fantastic song.

Conclusion

Great pop-punk is an art form. It’s an art form that 18th & Addison almost mastered already with Makeshift Monster. A lyrically strong album that boast excellent dual vocals. Not only are the lyrics and vocals strong, but the music is strong as well. At no point on the album do the songs break away from the formula that Kait DiBenedetto and Tom Kunzman created. The melodies are rich and lush. The hooks are infectious. The production is sharp and crisp. There is no doubt that the duo of DiBenedetto and Kunzman have talent; Makeshift Monster is their self-released, “Welcome to the party” moment. It’s an album that takes the best of alternative rock, modern rock, power pop, and pop punk and combines them into one extremely enjoyable album.

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Year 5, Day 28: We Have some “Current Affairs” That are Medium Rare.

Year 5, Day 28: Britta Persson – Current Affair Medium Rare

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Track List

  1. Annoyed to Death
  2. Meet a Bear
  3. Toast to M
  4. Some Girls Some Boys
  5. For the Steadiness
  6. If You Don’t Love Him
  7. Big Fuss
  8. Time Machine
  9. He Flies a Jet
  10. Still Friends

About the Album

Current Affair Medium Rare is the third studio album from Swedish indie pop rock musician, Britta Persson. The album was released on September 6th 2010 through Selective Notes/Razzia Records. The album peaked at number 31 on the Swedish charts.

Thoughts on the Album

Let us end the week with some lighter sounds from the music wonderland that is the Kingdom of Sweden. In the overcrowded world of alternative/indie rock, it is hard to separate yourself from others. It’s all about creating a product that is easily accessible to listeners, original and unique, all without sounding too cliched or overdone. Triple the difficultly for female artists. But Britta Persson, with her Swedish All Star Band created am elegant album that is both spiky and snarky.

Current Affair Medium Rare is an album that is both light and airy and heavy and guitar driven. These are some smart, spiky, and snarky pop-rock songs that engage the listener. The album has some bold melodies and infectiously catchy hooks. The album has a big band sound, but it’s not as bulky. It’s “light on its feet” so to say. Tracks Big Fuss and For the Steadiness contain some of the album’s biggest and rather catchiest choruses. These choruses form a nice counterpoint for the more subtle and subdued melodies heard throughout. Though the chorus on For the Steadiness sounds a bit uncomfortable as it sounds like it spliced together with slower verses.

However, For the Steadiness is a great pop rock song. Especially when combined with the equally excellent, Annoyed to Death and Toast to M. A Toast to M is an incredibly sweet and touching song that is a touching reflection on a friend’s suicide. The song has a curious but never accusatory or condemnatory attitude.  It’s the refrain of Toast to M that absolutely soars high; a refrain that is oddly anthemic.

The album takes a tough and tender approach to pop-rock, featuring artfully deliberate guitar-heavy driven melodies and hooks. Another interesting find was the minor-key guitar riff that winds its way through If You Don’t Love HimMeet a Bear is an intriguingly dark track.

Conclusion

I will admit that Current Affair Medium Rare is a frontloaded album. While the second half seems to falter, overall it is a solid album throughout. If you’ve listened to Persson’s 2008 album Kill Hollywood Me, you may be slightly disappointed. But overall it is an excellent follow up album.

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