Tuesday, July 30, 2013

New Bomb Turks - Scared Straight, 1996

New Bomb Turks - Scared Straight, 1996 album cover
I do have a music dealer. His name is Max and he runs a shop in downtown Prague called Maximum Underground. He's a nice person who patiently bears with me occupying his headphones and talking nonsense most of the time. It's a pleasantly weird little place, so please support them by stopping by if in the area.

It is thanks to Max I am getting introduced to many records I wouldn't have a chance to be introduced to otherwise. This was exactly the case with New Bomb Turks.

Warning first: neither of their following two albums managed to impress me – one partially, another one at all. But Scared Straight is The Album. Lightning fast, sometimes feeling like being run in a fast forward by the overdriven guitars, it might slightly conceal however doesn't lose a melody for a single second, sparkling with bold vocal modulations here and there. Energy filler and spirit raiser, I find its track list composed at a relatively uniform and quite high level with my personal preferences peaking around the middle – somewhere from Jukebox Lean to Look Alive Jive.

The kicks you'd get from this LP are very different from the kicks packed into the albums I tried to describe so far. It's a pure call for action, a demand for it – someone kicking you in the back to set your bones in motion when you desperately need this but keep hesitating somehow. Scared Straight possesses the spirit of classical rock-n-roll inside the contemporary punk package. Not a proper goodnight record for sure.

Give it a try.

Wikipedia: Album|Artist

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Def Leppard - High 'n' Dry, 1981

The way I see it, there are bands growing up during their careers and there are bands aging. (Clearly with all possible scenarios in between) For a long time I perceived Def Leppard strictly as a growing up kind, who literally started as kids and were absorbing life's lessons from album to album. And this way I should have probably begun with Slang – another listed album of theirs, which I personally perceive as a peak in their recording history.

However, I'm choosing to save that for another post and to sing anthem for youth rather than wisdom today. I guess it took me to pass a certain stage in my own ongoing growing up to suddenly reevaluate their early records as a quintessence of energy and sincerity – essentially the youth. And the brightest of the earliest has always been High 'n' Dry to me.

Second out of three first albums - the Pete Willis era, who was the main songwriter at the time and got fired during the recording of Pyromania (first out of two lineup changes Def Leppard had ever had). The sound of albums following Pyromania has changed a lot, but out of these first three High 'n' Dry is my sure preference. The reason being melodism: while being far from the “most melodic album” nomination in general, it would definitely win it out of the early Leppard records. While at the same time preserving the energy and that charming touch of naivety showing through unbreakably strong band’s voice.

Starting in an action manner and finding a comfy pace of fast and slow songs interleaved down the playlist, the sound of High 'n' Dry is becoming perceived both hard and smooth at the same time. And be sure to get a release featuring Me & My Wine as a bonus track – the guys were in the perfect spot to write and sing about hangovers.

Wikipedia: Album|Artist

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Iommi, 2000

And this is how it was. In the year 2000, after 5 years in the making, probably pretty tired of all this Black Sabbath reunion hustle, Tony Iommi, the god and father of heavy music, a person playing his own signature line of equipment, released his first solo album. (Okay, okay - first official...) With a modestly humble cover design, self-explanatory title, respectably clerical image on a photo and impressive list of friends, most of whom most likely grew up on his music.

Long story made short, it is tracks 1, 7 and 10. This is something I tend to tell people when passing the record or hear from them when getting it back. So why is it on THE LIST then? Well, there is something into it. Atmosphere, spirit – cannot find the exact word, but something very respectful, still something different for each piece – a very pleasant form of unified variety.

Don't get me wrong – those songs which might be perceived as a background are anything but crap! In fact, the vocalists' line up provides a very careful selection of artists worth being introduced to. But then listen to The Three. Ritual, maniacal laughter of the opening title – the fastest track on the disc. Then Flame On, coming over as a storm, as a wall of emotions too strong to be held inside. Not really fast, but with some kind of a tribal voodoo rhythm, forcing heart to synchronize. And in the very end, just right after Ozzy has said his word, comes the climax moment performed by Billy Idol. First part of the song, deeply moody and atmospheric on its own, turns out to be merely a warm-up for the burst of the second part, which in order is changed into the final slow-down, making sure your inner whatever is swept clean after the hurricane. For me personally it was truly lucky to get acquainted with Mr. Idol from this side rather than his classical works first.

Two more albums followed in 00’s, both featuring Glenn Hughes as a vocalist. But with all the respect and sympathy, neither of them managed to get me close to the emotions of this first release.

By the way, check out Tony Iommi's biography – it's really worth it.

Wikipedia: Album|Artist

Saturday, July 6, 2013

About being pop...

It is easy to notice that a lot, if not most, of the albums gathered in THE LIST are quite pop in a sense that those might not be the subtlest and most extravagant or sometimes even not the most expressive works of a respective artist. Rather those are the records possessing the quality to appeal easily to a wider range of listeners – being more pop. And I think it's worth explaining my position here.

I do believe that “pop” in this meaning is not a bad thing at all. Of course, there are other meanings like being purely commercially driven for instance, which is a topic for a whole different conversation. But the ability of an artistic product to move the masses is a huge achievement, requiring a talent of a further level imho. And thus I put this ability among criteria to enter the list; among things valuable. You do not necessary devaluate yourself by being more understandable! On the contrary, communicating sophisticated ideas and subtle emotions in an accessible way is a solid mark of a real talent, potentially bordering with genius. Just like Shreks and onions, art can have layers – so put it there – as many layers of subtext as you wish or can, but make the front one strong, clear and appealing – at least to make it heard.

Just like Samsara – a movie called a triumph of cinematography for a reason. It says so much about so many things so deep, important, but overdiscussed till the loss of public interest or attention; and yet does it in a form so right for cinematography but so unusual to the most of us, that it would've been a sure failure if it wasn't so beautiful and so CLEAR. At least in its front layer.

Just like Norman Rockwell.

Just like Led Zeppelin.

So be deep, be good, be purple if you choose, but be popular.

With two remarks:

1)I'm absolutely NOT saying EVERYTHING should be easy going. I'm a strong believer of diversity as a greater good. And we desperately need works harder to grasp as the only means possible to grow and evolve, to learn feeling and thinking deeper. It's just that as well I see a danger of refusing things pop only on the basis of its popularity – which has a strong scent of snobbery and decadence – intellectual elite's other best friends.

2)And of course not all the records I dare to recommend here are of that magic multi-layered kind – some are just what it says – a good rock record. ...Or I simply did not see through it – hopefully yet.