29 October 2017
Weezer seem to be on a bit of a roll, at least when it comes to the quantity of their output. It has only been seventeen months after the disappointing Weezer (White Album) (my review linked here), also this is not the album that Weezer first promised the world. Firstly, they announced that they would be releasing what would be known as Weezer (Black Album), a dark mirror for Weezer (White Album) with the songs that would apparently sound like The Beach Boys gone bad. But whilst they were working on that album, they wrote a batch of songs which did not fit in with that concept and the folder of "other" songs was soon overflowing. So much so, that they have put back Weezer (Black Album) to be released sometime next year, so they could release this album, Pacific Daydream. The image alone on this album is crazy, being on a swing in space is the sort of thing people see in their sleep, so it already has an outlandish feeling. But since it has been released, I have heard a critical back lash, as well as one from their fans. For me, the main worry I have with the album is the fact it has four producers. I have long held that multi-producer albums tend to feel unbalanced and lacking in focus, will Pacific Daydream change that opinion?
01 - Mexican Fender
"Mexican Fender" is a song about a summer love, sounding like a pop-rock-indie combination that is rolling in the California sun and everything is sunshine. There is a polish to this song which feels like everything will slide off it, like it cannot really stick to anything. Worryingly, it's also incredibly forgettable and I always feel a little surprised when it comes on, as if I am half remembering a dream. But once it is finished, there is no real lasting effect and that is not my usual experience when it comes to Weezer.
02 - Beach Boys
"Beach Boys" is a song that once again feels like it is bathed in the California vibe, but there is a sun-set feeling to the music. The song seems to be about being on the wrong side of the track, in a gang and things generally going south on a semi-regular basis. It's an improvement to "Mexican Fender", but it's still not up to their own high standards. It is decent enough, but very forgettable.
03 - Feels Like Summer
"Feels Like Summer" was the first song to be released from Pacific Daydream, it is also River Cuomo's biggest pop fantasy come true. It's larger than life, it has some great pop hooks and it's very catchy. However, it is not a Weezer song in my mind, it's akin to what Beck did on Colors, but with more acid and crayons. It's OTT, a colourful daydream pop tune which is several times removed from their usual sound. Exploring different genres is always something to be encouraged, but this one feels like it should have been released under a different name.
04 - Happy Hour
"Happy Hour" isn't a happy song, it’s a pop complaint about life having a huge shit on you whilst other people are living the good life. So, you crave the release of an alcoholic drink to escape the pain of the everyday. It's not a great coping mechanism, but it is some peoples only method as outlined in this song. Much like "Beach Boys", it seems a little bit too slow to be a true pop number, to light to be an indie classic and not doing much for anyone.
05 - Weekend Woman
"Weekend Woman" is a song about a union which is short, but memorable. With more pop hooks thrown into the mix, you would be forgiven for wishing for a fuzzy guitar peddle at this point. Which is a shame in a way, as this song is the nearest that the band have come to shedding those synth pop sounds on the album so far. But they seem to be happy in this sound, it's just a shame that it sounds a little too easy to these ears. It is decent once again, but it is not as memorable as they were probably hoping for.
06 - QB Blitz
"QB Blitz" a lighter version of every other song on this album, it is straight forward and sort of dull to be honest. It's a basic pop song, sort of okay in a boring way. There is not specifically wrong with the song, it is just a bland and even less memorable than the rest - which is an achievement that they were probably not aiming for. File under "worst song of the album, probably ever from Weezer".
07 - Sweet Mary
"Sweet Mary" is River Cuomo playing out his ELO fantasy, it is another larger than life song on this album. It has style, there is a classic rock-pop song vibe in the old-school sense of the word. The sunshine vibe of this song works to its advantage, it does not feel forced and that is a big plus point. It's the best song on the album, but if we are honest, that is not a hard achievement on this album.
08 - Get Right
"Get Right" keeps up the sort of anti-Weezer feeling of the record, heading for a pure pop direction without sacrificing their overall sound for some bizarre reason. Because of this effort to bridge the gap between the two styles, it sorts of feels like it's trying to please everyone, and it ends up pleasing no-one. There is a pleasant sound to the music, it's not offensive or dull, but it is not exciting either and good pop music (and Weezer songs) should have a certain buzz level. Another one which is forgettable once it's finished, which is such a shame.
09 - La Mancha Screwjob
"La Mancha Screwjob" is another song that is baths in California sunshine, pop production and if it was released under a different name, it would still sound average. This is so pedestrian, so similar music that is in the charts that it ends up being a bit dull. It's not poor, but it's not good either.
10 - Any Friend of Diane's
Ending the album is "Any Friend of Diane's" which adds pedal steel guitar, Spanish guitar and a gentle melody to the mix. It's a nice enough tune, there is nothing offensive or wrong with the music. But I cannot see people running back to listen to this in a hurry, it is too plain and there is no fizz to the music.
What we have here is a pop album, a pure and simple pop record and not one that feels natural in the grand scheme of things. So why have I given it a six out of ten, when it has taken a bit of a beating throughout the review? It all comes down to the mark I gave Weezer (White Album). Pacific Daydream is certainly not a great Weezer album, it’s not an even a good pop album to be honest, but it's still an improvement on Weezer (White Album) (again, not exactly hard). I cannot say it is awful, but the way I look at Pacific Daydream is this; when you are constantly release everything you write all the time, the quality control for some artists is not always there. Remember, not every song is going to be a hit, this album is sadly a reminder that people can have off days. With each song on this album, there is a similar pace and the tone of the tunes rarely alters, but there is no connecting line to the songs. It's as if they have stopped short of moving out of that particular gene pool, as if the songs are distant family members in name only, who barely know each other brought together for a family photo. That is what tends to happen when you have more than one producer on a record, more than one controller at the wheel. When it comes to Weezer, they seem to either release classics or below average albums of meh, this one is sadly the latter and it drift past me without making a lasting impression. I can see why some long-time fans are not happy with it, however, it's still better than the last one, but only just. Also, I think that Weezer have mined that California sound long enough, but that is just my own opinion. I applaud them for trying to make a pure pop album, this will probably sell well enough as it has the name Weezer on it. However, and this is a big however, they are starting to sound as if they are treading water a bit. Maybe it should have been released under a different name, maybe then it would have been free of that shadow which Weezer have created for themselves. But that is not the case, we cannot deal in maybes and this album is what it is - average. So, one step forward, two steps back on Pacific Daydream.
6 out of ten - Now I see where you were going, but it's not quite there
Top track - Sweet Mary
You can purchase Pacific Daydream on Amazon here.
You can visit the Weezer website here.
You can follow the activities of Weezer on Facebook here.
You can stream Pacific Daydream on Spotify here.
You can stream Pacific Daydream on Deezer here.
You can stream Pacific Daydream on Tidal here.
27 October 2017
Anne Erin "Annie" Clark (aka St. Vincent) is an artist who really should not need an introduction, but it would be rude not to do so at this point. When I first listened to St. Vincent (our review linked here), I found an artist with a beautiful voice which was subtle and powerful in the same moment at times, but whilst that album was good, it was not the be-all-&-end-all that some of the press were proclaiming it to be. It was a solid album, with some killer song including the brilliant "Digital Witness", which is known to make me bust into spontaneous dance moves (it is not a pretty sight). MASSEDUTION has been an album that a lot of people have been anticipating for a long time, one that has already seen critics either sung hallelujahs in the highest, or state that it's lacking in focus. The cover is certainly one that has gain a lot of attention, but my focus is on the music here, so I will start my review.
01 - Hang on Me
With a slow electronic introduction, "Hang on Me" looks at the world through the eyes of an outsider, from the view point of a person looking into the bubble and seeing things differently. But still requesting companionship, wanting someone to share their experiences with. It's an outsider's paradox - but there are a lot of people who do feel as if they are not part of the mainstream of society, so this song will make a lot of sense to a lot of people. St. Vincent sounds as divine as ever, but there is an emptiness to the music on this one, which is probably by design to match the lyrics.
02 – Pills
"Pills" is a song which St. Vincent has confirmed is about a time in her life when she needed sleep medication, and is not a condemnation of mass pharmaceutical companies and the pill popping culture that we seem to live in. It is a classic pop-tune, with a catchy chorus and those subtle vocals that can send shivers down your neck. But there is a disconnection emanating from this song, as if the pills have disconnected St. Vincent from reality and she is trying to focus through her own personal fog. A good song, but not one I can connect with.
03 – Masseduction
The title track of the album is a song about sexuality, not switching off your desires and how sex is in your face all the time. It is a big pop number, a loud guitar in the chorus and full of dynamic synths and St. Vincent sounds in fine form here. It’s the first track on the album to gain an instant reaction from me, it has the same catchy vibe as songs from St. Vincent, it has that instant appeal which is ironic as it is a song about the masses being horny all of the time.
04 – Sugarboy
“Sugarboy” is a high-energy song which will be an indie disco anthem for years to come, it has that wow factor that you sometimes need from a pop song, but with the intelligence that gives the song a little bit more than just its shiny sheen and fantastic sounds. It’s another great song, one that stays with you long after it has finished, but it does have a hint of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” about it. Not that this is a bad thing, just pointing out a similarity in sound here.
05 – Los Ageless
“Los Ageless” is a tricky song for me, one that is not settling very well in my mind and I cannot put my figure on why. Musically, it's a dramatic synth piece that sounds fantastic in every environment; lyrically though, it feels claustrophobic and as if there is no hope of escape from the self-destructive narrative. Lovers are sacrificed, waves come and sweep you away and it’s all dramatic and without hope. Considering recent news stories about the film industry, it seems to have been created and released at a perfect time when LA seems to be on fire metaphorically. But I think the depressive and loneliness of the song make it a hard one to love, but I admire the work behind it.
06 – Happy Birthday, Johnny
“Happy Birthday, Johnny” is a solemn light after two larger than life pieces, but one of a relationship that has fell apart and isolation caused due to fame. It is one which sounds incredibly personal and it also sounds heart-breaking. I love it, but it makes me well up with the pain behind it. It’s an important piece on this album, one that shows scars which cannot be seen on the skin.
07 – Savior
A song about sexual preferences, practices and things that happen between consenting adults, “Savior” feeling as if it’s slightly one-sided, as if someone is having to do more to satisfy the other than they feel comfortable with. It’s a dark number, very downbeat and a little pessimistic in places as well. But it’s one that will sound huge live, but once again it’s one that I am trying to figure out and not getting anywhere near an answer.
08 – New York
“New York” is a song about lose, regret and feeling empty. With its short timeframe, it covers a lot of ground quickly. It’s a beautiful piece, one that pays tribute to a former lover, touching on personal memories and speaking of fondness, even though St. Vincent sounds as if she is also moving forwards. It is a complicate number, one which speaks to people on many different levels and it will resonate with millions of people. It’s one of the highlights of this album, a special moment of frailness on this record.
09 – Fear the Future
“Fear the Future” has an industrial/Gary Numan/Sky Ferria sound, it has a machine tone to the music and it sound immense. Once again, we are dealing with lose and love smashed into pieces, all mixed with fear and terror of what is to come. It’s another huge song on this album, but it is also another short number as well. It just seems to be reaching its stride when the music starts to fade, so it feels as if it was cut short in its prime.
10 – Young Lover
“Young Lover” is a toxic song, one which has yearning, regret, sadness and anger to perfection as the lover of the protagonist is slowly self-destructing before their eyes. It’s a harsh number, one that is not easy to listen to, but it's one that I find myself drawn back to long after it has finished playing. It’s dealing with a sensitive subject once again, but the music is glorious. How did something so good come out of something so bad?
11 – Dancing with a Ghost
I have no idea why “Dancing with a Ghost” is on this album, it’s mostly a fade in and out of strings which could have been added as part of “Slow Disco”. A bit of a waste of an introduction or minute, sorry to say it but this one does not add or remove anything from the album, so why is it there? Maybe to show a memory being played in the mind when so music comes to mind? For art’s sake? Either way, it really could have been added to the next track.
12 – Slow Disco
“Slow Disco” is another song that will wound your already broken heart, it’s all about needing to more out of the door quickly, to leave a lover behind. It is a beautiful song, one that sounds as if it was created with a tear in the eyes whilst it was recorded. It’s beautiful, fragile and a high-charged emotional number designed to let the emotions flow. I still think that “Dancing with a Ghost” should have been added to the beginning, but that does not change anything about the result of the song.
13 – Smoking Section
“Smoking Section” ends this album with a sombre and bizarrely angry song, one that shows that some emotions are still raw as we head for the exit ourselves on this record. The music is gentle in places, and then you have these angry beats and harsh noises to give physical form to the emotional conflict inside. It’s another song that’s not easy to love, but it’s one which I respect and understand. It's not a cute song which bids you safe journies into the night, it’s harsh and cruel, purpose built to leave you feeling uncomfortable and confused. This makes it’s a fitting end to this album, it brings the story to an ending, not a clear cut one, but an ending none the less.
Masseduction is not an easy album, in fact I think it’s the most difficult record I have listened to in 2017, and this is in a year where I have reviewed an Oxbow album as well. Heartbreak is always going to be a source of inspiration for an artist, and St. Vincent has used her own emotional upheaval to create an album that shows the complexities of a dissolvement of a romantic union. So why is this album, which I openly admit I struggle with at times, getting such a high mark? Well, it is a brilliant record, and not all records are smooth on the soul. It is not designed to be easy on the soul, so it has completed its job well. You should never listen to this album for fun, it’s to be used as companion in loneliness, or as a challenge for your mind if you need something to contrast the pop music of the day. If you listen to this for pleasure, then I think you might need some help. But back to the album, it’s a beautifully crafted record and I admire and applaud St. Vincent for being brave enough to record it in the first place. There is a certain degree of bravery to lay everything out for the world to dissect and criticise, but St. Vincent has done this with style It’s not something I would listen to on a regular basis, also it does not trump her St. Vincent record of 2014, but it’s a beautiful piece of art and for that purpose, I would recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in music.
8 out of ten – Now you have my attention, and maybe my time, money and heart.
Top track – Masseduction
You can purchase MASSEDUCTION on Amazon here.
You can visit the St. Vincent website here.
You can follow the activities of St. Vincent on Facebook here.
You can stream MASSEDUCTION on Spotify here.
You can stream MASSEDUCTION on Deezer here.
You can stream MASSEDUCTION on Tidal here.
22 October 2017
Lucky Malice are a Norwegian Riot Grrrrl, Feminist Punk band who have been going since 2004. From reading their website and Facebook, they have a great work ethic and run on an DIY principal that is admirable. They are also a band who are not to be fucked with, they hold their principles to their heart and they are going to say no to anything that isn't to their liking. They are signed to Tonehjulet Kräftpest records and that is about all I know, so I will look at Misfit. Misfit was released in recorded at the end of 2016, released in April 2017 digitally, it was released on physical formats on 10th October. It was recorded at Rockehuset, Halden, with Simen Følstad Nilsen as a technician and mastering handled by Hans Uhre. As I went into this review without prior knowledge of Lucky Malice, I have no preconceptions of their sound or style, so here are my thoughts on Misfit.
01 – Intro
Does exactly what it says on the tin, it’s a short instrumental track that is over in less than a minute. Decent for what it is, no more and no less.
02 – Cry Wolf
“Cry Wolf” blasts out of your speakers as a strange hybrid, mixing the frantic nature of Discharge, a hint of Echobelly meets Babes in Toyland to the vocals and then some Wildhearts/Backyard Babies vibes as well, with a large cut of hardcore to the mix as well. It is smash ‘n’ grab number, a short, sharp kick to your private parts and it is better than any pop-punk out there. It’s a brilliant opening, one that grabs your attention from the beginning and there is so much attitude, what is there not to love here?
03 – Keeping a Secret
“Keeping a Secret” is another adrenaline fuelled number, one that has some fantastic hooks, a great riff, some heavy bass work and a drumming performance that is best described as anarchic. It sounds like it could fall apart at any given second, but everything is held together and give this song ragged edge that works so well for punk music.
04 – No Borders
“No Borders” is a politically changed punk number, talking about how borders are not helping keep people safe, but that the ongoing nationalism movement is creating a powder keg of fear. It is hard hitting, straight to the point and it also sounds fantastic. A top-quality song, with a thought provoking message as well.
05 – Longest Finger
“Longest Finger” finds Lucky Malice in full flight, it is a sub-two-minute punk anthem which having contempt for some people who are serving themselves, instead of the rest of the world, so they get the middle finger as a sign of contempt. I love this, it has that punk spirit and manic energy that is sometimes missing from Punk these days, what a rush!
06 – Ruins
“Ruins” is a rollercoaster ride of Punk furry, one that keeps up the momentum of the album and does not give you a moment to collect your thoughts. It is a great piece of music, it leaves you in no doubt about their thoughts about how they are being treat. Lucky Malice are in a dark mood on this song, one which is not afraid to speak the truth. A perfect piece of punk for me, just how it should sound.
07 – Blank Sheets
Sadly, each album has a song which is not quite as good as its cousins, “Blank Sheets” is sadly the song for me on Misfit. It is a slower number (probably because the audience needs a rest), but being slower on this album means it is going at hundreds of miles an hour and not thousands. Decent enough, with another hard-hitting message about abuse and lies, but musically it’s not quite as good as other songs.
08 – Skeletons
A song about self-image and how people are being tortured into being something that they are not, just to be sacrificed at the altar of fashion. This song is here to stop this, this is a solid anthem to give people some hope about just being themselves. It is a powerful song, and it has another great riff that will make people bounce around like their pants are on fire. It is great when you hear a powerful message with a great piece of music, well done Lucky Malice.
09 – Real Social Dynamics
This is a great feminist anthem, it is powerful and to the point. It will make some people feel uncomfortable, but that is how it should be. This is a fuck you to the people who are trying to repress ladies around the world, if this upsets you then you are part of the issue. I love this, you need punk like this to shine a spotlight on things that matter, and it is a fantastic song. The fact it says everything that needs to be said in just over a minute, just shows that they are not here to fuck around.
10 – Never
Sung in their native language, “Never” is a hard-hitting number about living in an abusive relationship, one where the perfect picture taken only hides over the monster inside and the table are going to be turned. The subject matter is meant to make you feel uncomfortable, it’s not something that people like to confront, and it should not be tolerated. It’s also a song that sounds fantastic, your good & honest punk rock tune, one with a powerful statement at its heart.
11 – Stormen Et Slutt
A song which does not hide from mistakes, but offers support and forgiveness as well (I love the English translations on Bandcamp, otherwise I would be clueless). It is not without consequence this forgiveness, but it is done from the perception of an equal and that is a powerful message. Musically it might not be my favourite on here, it just seems to lose a bit of energy, but the message is once again the focus here.
12 – Misfit/Outro
With a Grunge guitar tone, “Misfit/Outro” is a quieter ending to this album than I anticipated. It’s another powerful song, one that will sadly sound familiar to a lot of people, but there is a fighting spirit to the song that is fantastic. I love everything about it, it also links in to “Intro” as well, which gives this album a circular feeling, that sort of touch is wonderful.
What a short and thrilling album! Misfit is a fantastic Punk record, it has an old school attitude and it is up there with the best of them for my money. It has such energy, so a raw and powerful explosion of politics, feminism and emotions that it is hard to ignore. You may notice I am not mentioning about their politics and messages as much as I could during the review, this is mainly because I want the songs to give the message once you listen to Misfit. This is because that way, you will get the message directly from the source and it will be delivered better than I ever could – I believe that ladies get the shitty end of the deal all the time anyway, and I think Lucky Malice are on the button here. I wanted to give them (and their songs) an equal platform throughout the review, without me getting everything wrong. The message behind the songs are more important than me trying to interpret them, I would only fail in my interpretation of these powerful numbers, I know my own failing points. Lucky Malice are a great band – full stop! I love their messages, I love their attitude and I hope it empowers ladies around the world. It is music like this which needs to be heard and hopefully it will change a lot of people’s attitudes. Their gender for me is part of their identity and it also means that they are capable of delivering great things, they have created an album that has the energy of a Bad Brains & Discharge hybrid, full of drama, powerful social messages and frantic riffs, kicking the hell out of the subject matters and it sound glorious. I would be lying if I said this album had the greatest production ever, but that is not what Punk was ever supposed to be about. It was about getting the message across, warts and all! If I was pushed to pick a downside, there is little deviation between the songs. But if you are looking for that in a Hardcore, kick-ass Feminist punk album, you might as well try to find truth in a politician. I think this is a great album which has kicked its way to my heart and will be in my top ten of the year, hopefully it will propel them to greater heights and kick a few people along the way.
9 out of ten – Almost perfect, almost…...
Top track – Cry Wolf
You can purchase Misfit from the Tonehjulet Kräftpest Bandcamp page here.
You can purchase Misfit from Amazon here.
You can visit the Lucky Malice website here.
You can follow the activities of Lucky Malice on Facebook here.
You can stream Misfit on Spotify here.
You can stream Misfit from Deezer here.
You can stream Misfit on Tidal here.
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