Review: Live From New York City, 1967 by Simon and Garfunkel (2002)

SimonandGarfunkelLiveNY67

There was a time when I thought that I was too cool for Simon and Garfunkel. It turns out that Simon and Garfunkel were too cool for me. Thankfully, I grew up.

Most of us have some sort of history with one of music’s finest duos, but even if somehow you don’t (!?!?!) then you will probably enjoy this album. Some things are just universally great.

Moomins, for example.

Maybe you know a few songs but you find the super-60s production a little overwhelming, perhaps you think it’s just fine the way it is but you like hearing things done a little differently, you could even be from the moon – my point is that Live From New York City, 1967 is an essential album. I don’t know how I lived without it.

Okay, so songs and stuff. There’s a nice selection here. I’m not going to take it track by track because that’s not the point of live albums. A bunch of the classics are here – Homeward BoundA Hazy Shade of WinterI Am a RockThe Sound of Silence… always a pleasure.

There are also fifteen tracks besides those above. They are beautiful. You might think I’m slipping into hyperbole here, but I’m not exaggerating one bit when I say that I love this album and intend to marry it.

“But why do you love this record to the extent that you’re willing to commit the rest of your life to worshipping it?” asks nobody in particular.

Nobody in particular is represented here by the world's everyman, Sasquatch.
Nobody in particular is represented here by the Sasquatch.

That’s a great question! In future though please keep your queries and comments for the end of the review. Thank you.

Well, besides the fact that every single song is entirely brilliant, Live From New York City, 1967 is a rare thing insofar as it is a Simon and Garfunkel record that features only… well… Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. This isn’t your usual Simon and Garfunkel and Drummer and Horn Section and Two Guitarists and Keyboard Player and Backing Vocalists and Bassist and Dude Playing Triangle live album and that is what makes it so special.

We all knew Paul Simon was an excellent guitarist, but wow he’s so amazing. I think he has an extra hand he’s not telling us about. Art Garfunkel is often done a great disservice in these sorts of pieces, cast as the amusical hanger-on, but the man simply has a stunning voice.

Together they are perfect, and that’s the real selling point of this live album: it’s a testament to the brilliance of Paul Simon’s poetry and the beauty of his and Art Garfunkel’s harmonies that the songs are somehow improved for being stripped down to their barest bones.

Basically, if you don’t buy Live From New York City, 1967 then you don’t have a soul.

Live From New York City, 1967 track list:

  1. He Was My Brother
  2. Leaves That Are Green
  3. Sparrow
  4. Homeward Bound
  5. You Don’t Know Where Your Interest Lies
  6. A Most Peculiar Man
  7. The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)
  8. The Dangling Conversation
  9. Richard Cory
  10. A Hazy Shade Of Winter
  11. Benedictus
  12. Blessed
  13. A Poem on the Underground Wall
  14. Anji
  15. I Am a Rock
  16. The Sound of Silence
  17. For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her
  18. A Church Is Burning
  19. Wednesday Morning, 3 A. M.
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Review: The Bones Of What You Believe by Chvrches (2013)

tumblr_static_chvrches_albumpackshot

I feel strange. I was aware of Chvrches through their name alone and was very put off by it – in my head it manifests as Chvurchevesezeches – and so I ignored them in the hopes that they’d go away.

Pixies were on Jools Holland last week. I watched it. Chvrches were also on and I was feeling open-minded (read: lazy) so I chose not to fast-forward it. Not exactly to my tastes, I thought, but certainly intriguing. Their second song came after an interview with Black Francis, so I couldn’t ignore it, could I?

On that Saturday morning, sat in my pants and eating leftover Chinese food, I found myself thinking that this band were actually kind of great. That thought stuck with me all the way ’til Wednesday, when I decided that I could take it no longer and marched myself to HMV.

I bought an album that’s in the top 10 this week… because of telly. They’re so goddamned new that only one of their members has a Wikipedia page.

It was a great fucking decision.

The Mother We Share is both the first track on the album and my introduction to the group. Plenty of interesting things going on. Snappy synths and a lovely warm wash of a chorus. I’m not sure you could find a way to not like something about this song. She also swears. I love swearing! We Sink has another fuck. Is it because they’re from Glasgow?

Gun is a single or something. It’s got a video. Lots of nice colours! I could probably boogie to this, and I hate dancing. I really do. That’s just how good it is.

It’s like I’m inside the song, man.

Time for the slow track. Yay. Tether is a nicely atmospheric track, gloomy guitars, muffly bass and the sort of beat your heart does when you’re about to do something terrible. This is probably the electronic equivalent of the classic LOUDquietLOUD dynamic. Naturally, things get more complicated towards the end. This song deserves a decent video at some point.

Lies is the song that swayed me on that cold morning, wrapped up in my quilt and cradling my rice. It reminds me quite a bit of Black Celebration-era Depeche Mode – it may seem to be conventionally poppy but there’s also something horribly wrong, something unsettling. A nice splodge of Nine Inch Nailsian noise at the end too.

Oooh! Under The Tide is sung by somebody else, but I don’t know who does what at this stage so you will have to make up his name. Far from simply being a ‘letting Ringo sing’ moment, it’s a very good song and fits perfectly on the record.

I bought the CD, but this is probably where you turn the LP over.

No interesting caption, just a cool picture.

Recover is a pop sandwich – bright and bouncy bread with a filling that pleads for better, some salad, some cheese, anything. An utterly brilliant track.

What’s going on here? Science/Visions is going on, that’s what. For some reason it reminds me of Akira. Does that make me a massive nerd? It’s a very oppressive song. I love it.

Lungs brings to mind some of the more damning songs from Nine Inch Nails’ Year Zero. While it doesn’t necessarily sound like NIN it’s not lyrically dissimlar to songs like The Warning.

Closing time. You Caught The Light has some nice Martin Gore vibes and has other fella singing again. It ends things on a nice quiet note and leaves you feeling that, yes, you would quite like to play the album again.

You know what? That’s just what I did.

The Bones Of What You Believe is an excellent record and I’m very pleased that it exists and is successful. It deserves it. I’m also happy that people are buying such great music lately. Thank you, people.

Buy it today and make some Glaswegians happy.

Chvrches deserve all the success they can get. They write, perform and produce their own material and seem to do what the hell they like, which is always admirable. We have a female singer who sings like a real person and isn’t willing to take any of your shit. We also finally get some decent new electronic music that doesn’t have any shitting dubstep in it and isn’t trying to make me dance or buy trainers. It’s all very refreshing..

Everybody have a look at these people. They are awesome.

The Bones Of What You Believe track list:

  1. The Mother We Share
  2. We Sink
  3. Gun
  4. Tether
  5. Lies
  6. Under the Tide
  7. Recover
  8. Night Sky
  9. Science/Visions
  10. Lungs
  11. By The Throat
  12. You Caught The Light

Review: Midlife Crisis – The Very Best of Faith No More (2010)

Great effort, you guys.
Please don’t leave your interns in charge of graphic design. Please.

This compilation is at once a cheap cash-in and an incredible bargain. It’s structured without regard for chronological consistency or even who happens to be in the band but it also has no less than 14 B-SIDES AND RARITIES, making this a ‘Best of’ that’s far more valuable to people who already have every album than people new to the band.

Things start off pretty normally, blah blah blah We Care A Lot blah blah blah Epic blah blah blah Midlife Crisis. You’ve heard them all before. The album actually manages to mix up its own track list at this point, with Midlife Crisis and Falling To Pieces swapping places. How the hell do you manage something like that?

Not even Mike Patton can figure it out and he’s fucking weird.

The sexy e-bow vibes of Stripsearch are a welcome addition, although it is bizarrely followed by eight-minute epic The Real Thing. While it is perhaps one of their greatest overall, it also marks where this collection starts to go a bit wrong.

That’s right, here come the b-sides! The World Is Yours is fine enough but the tracks that follow are kind of shite, especially the over-long instrumental, Instrumental. Much better is Sweet Emotion, which was recorded during sessions for The Real Thing and later reworked into The Perfect Crime for Bill & Ted’s Bogus Adventure, earning it a double obscurity bonus. Score!

Arabian Disco and As The Worm Turns from the band’s yet-to-be-reissued debut album are really quite good, with As The Worm Turns in particular being far superior to Mike Patton’s recorded version. Unfortunately we have two from The Real Thing smushed in the middle – War Pigs and The Morning After. These are great and all, but it would be nice for Chuck Mosley to get a little more recognition for having been the singer for two albums rather than being the bread in a Patton sandwich.

Although he is meatier than you’d think.

Disc 2 is much better, mostly because it starts with Everything’s Ruined, one of the best songs from the already stellar Angel Dust. Bee Gees cover I Started a Joke is the first relatively obscure track and features Mike Patton singing with an awful fake English accent. Ick.

Defying all logic, This Guy’s In Love With You and Theme From Midnight Cowboy from the same (incredible!) live performance are separated by no less than four songs, one of them being the very excellent R’n’R from Chuck Mosley’s Introduce Yourself. Why’s it there? No idea.

Maybe best not to bother him. He looks like he needs a sleep.

Light Up and Let Go isn’t very notable at all but certainly quite tolerable. The perfect b-side! I Won’t Forget You and The Big Kahuna show us where all the nu-metal bands got their ideas from – as with all things Faith No More it’s probably a massive piss-take, but in this instance maybe they took the whole ‘irony’ thing a little too far.

Underwater Love is very welcome afterwards, because mermaids.

Little-known fact: Patton is a mermaid.
Patton unfortunately neglected to use underwater protection.

The cover of Spanish Eyes that follows is one of the greatest things I’ve ever heard – best synth-horns ever? Absolute Zero is the last b-side and is one of the few originals featured that really should have been on an album, perhaps if it had a little more polish we’d know all the words.

We finish up with totally awesome The Gentle Art of Making Enemies. Maybe the people who sequenced this album really did know what they were up to after all?

The Very Best of Faith No More is a worthy purchase as long as it’s a very cheap one, and is ultimately a bit redundant if you already own The Real Thing and Angel Dust. The Chuck Mosley era is a little better represented than usual but 5 out of 39 hardly seems fair, not to mention the lack of anything that’s not a single from both King for a Day… Fool for a Lifetime and Album of the Year.

What you ought to do instead is just buy each of the albums. There are only five. Chop chop!

Midlife Crisis track list…

Disc one:

  1. We Care A Lot
  2. From Out Of Nowhere
  3. Epic
  4. Falling To Pieces
  5. Midlife Crisis
  6. Easy (Commodores cover)
  7. Digging The Grave
  8. Stripsearch
  9. The Real Thing
  10. The World Is Yours
  11. Hippie Jam Song
  12. Instrumental
  13. Highway Star (Deep Purple cover)
  14. Sweet Emotion (not an Aerosmith cover)
  15. Arabian Disco
  16. War Pigs (Black Sabbath cover)
  17. The Morning After
  18. As The Worm Turns

Disc two:

  1. Everything’s Ruined
  2. A Small Victory
  3. Evidence
  4. I Started A Joke (Bee Gees cover)
  5. Last Cup Of Sorrow
  6. Ashes To Ashes
  7. Ricochet
  8. This Guy’s In Love With You (Bacharach/David standard)
  9. R ‘N’ R
  10. Kindergarten
  11. Caffeine
  12. Land Of Sunshine
  13. Theme From Midnight Cowboy
  14. Light Up And Let Go
  15. I Won’t Forget You
  16. Underwater Love
  17. Spanish Eyes (Al Martino cover)
  18. The Big Kahuna
  19. Introduce Yourself
  20. Absolute Zero
  21. The Gentle Art Of Making Enemies

Review: Attila by Attila (1970)

Words fail me.
Words fail me.

Now, I’ve been trying really hard not to review the same artist twice in a row but there’s always room for an exception or two and this record is very exceptional.

Attila features pre-Piano Man Billy Joel and some dude who plays drums. The band broke up when Billy stole Drummer’s Wife (they then broke up about thirteen years later) but not before they had a chance to put out this glorious mess of an album.

Did you think that The Stranger himself was capable of being so downright metal? He totally is!

Billy Joel: far more Metal than you could have believed.
Billy Joel: a little more in common with Slayer than you ever could have believed.

The Billster, with the help of Attila’s road manager, was actually among the first people (if not the first) to hook up a Hammond organ to a Marshall guitar amplifier, creating the world’s first Maximum Rock Organ. He DESTROYS the damn thing too. He shreds and beats at his organ in exactly the way he doesn’t in Just The Way You Are.

Wonder Woman starts off the album with a bunch of stuff you can expect to hear plenty of for the next 40 minutes – shitloads of wah-wah and nonsense lyrics with shouting and loud drums, with the occasional druggy interlude. It’s really about Wonder Woman. Really.

California Flash seems to be about somebody who is really good at boning but isn’t Billy Joel, making this a drastically different song from his solo material. There’s also some good old-fashioned drug references here. Have a listen for yourself – do you think they were on boatloads of drugs?

Nah.
Nah.

Apparently, Revenge is Sweet and Billy Joel’s gonna beat you up! He seems to travel 15 years through time in this song so he can borrow James Hetfield’s vocal chords. He’s going to KICK YOUR FACE IN.

Amplifier Fire Part I – Godzilla is an instrumental piece that doesn’t suck. It brings in some nice classic rock ‘n’ roll stuff, only CRANKED UP TO A MILLION. There’s a really cool bit where the organ starts to sound like a glitched-up Gameboy, which is the coolest thing ever. It descends into Amplifier Fire Part II – March of the Huns with a righteous keyboard wail and some ridiculous tribal drumming, complete with some positively Gregorian vocals. This is the music of Hell.

What should be side 2 keeps up the pace with Rollin’ Home, featuring more frantic drumming and a keyboard style that can only be described as hitting. This song features a Billy Joel who is so horny that he wants to have a wank at the cinema but heroically holds off just in case he gets laid later. I’m thinking this is why he ran off with Drummer’s Wife.

Mr. Gorbachev, Tear This Castle Down! This track features lyrics about being SHIPWRECKED and then there’s a castle or something and he needs to TEEEEAAAARRRR THISSSS CAAASSSTLLLEEEE DOOOOWWWWWNNNN! Then it gets a bit druggy, it’s probably about taking loads of acid or something. The Man wanted Billy Joel to cut off all his hair! That’s just not his bag, man.

Oh, wait. Never mind.
Oh, wait. Never mind.

The organ in Holy Moses really does sound like guitars. It’s very impressive. This is probably Billy Joel at his most Ozzy Osbourne yet. Ozzy Osbourne as we know him didn’t exist yet when Attila formed so I think it’s safe to conclude that Billy Joel invented Black Sabbath.

Brain Invasion is another instrumental but we can forgive them for that because this one rocks extra hard. Mr. Joel shows off his half-complete classical training with some ridiculous organ work while Drummer thrashes out some cool jazz rhythms. Groovy.

For those of you who are too cool to like Billy Joel, give this a spin and it might just blow your minds. If you like psychedelic rock, if you like Mike Patton, if you like anything even vaguely out there then you absolutely owe it to yourself to give this a go.

Also, thanks to the album never being officially released on CD, it’s totally okay for me to post the entire album here!

Attila track list:

  1. Wonder Woman
  2. California Flash
  3. Revenge is Sweet
  4. Amplifier Fire Part I – Godzilla
  5. Amplifier Fire Part II – March of the Huns
  6. Rollin’ Home
  7. Tear This Castle Down
  8. Holy Moses
  9. Brain Invasion

Review: Streetlife Serenade by Billy Joel (1974)

Even the cover is boring.
Even the cover is boring.

It’s hard to find much to say about Streetlife Serenade, it’s kind of boring. Boring as in “I was told I had to do another album and I didn’t really want to but I did anyway.” There’s not a lot of passion in these recordings from either Billy Joel or the session players but there are enough decent tracks here to make it worth getting if you can get it cheap enough.

Streetlife Serenader and Los Angelenos are two of the best songs on the album and would later feature on Billy’s first live album, Songs in the Attic. Being recorded by a proper band in a live setting brought them to life a bit and these versions are vastly superior. Get Songs in the Attic, is what I’m saying.

I was thinking of you the whole time, baby.
I was thinkin’ of you the whole time, baby.

The Great Suburban Showdown features some cringe-worthy old-timey synthesizer and lyrics about being rich and how that sort of makes you a cowboy or something. Of course, at this point Billy Joel was busy being a commercial failure and so I don’t think he was getting all that free champagne on his plane. Also features some riveting lyrics about his daddy mowing the lawn.

Root Beer Rag is an instrumental ragtime piece which doesn’t really belong on the album at all. I’m pretty sure he’d gone to see The Sting and thought it was really neat or something and that’s why this song exists. A good b-side but pretty jarring when it’s stuck between two slower songs.

Roberta is Billy Joel pleading with a prostitute to sleep with him even though he’s got no money – “I’m in a bad way and I wanna make love to you.”

Nope.
Nope.

The Entertainer crosses Moog synthesizer with more cowboy stuff and appears to exist in a universe where music and beans are kept in the same area in the shop. It’s kind of a cool song regardless and the only track from the album to appear on his many Greatest Hits collections.

Last of the Big Time Spenders is about having lots of money again. It starts off very nicely with Billy accompanying himself on piano in good ol’ bluesy style but goes off the rails a bit when the rest of the band comes in. It would have been nice to have had this one left alone.

Weekend Song is the last proper full-band song on the album and I’m very pleased for that. It’s really lame. Paul McCartney as a solo artist lame.

Souvenir is good because they left Billy alone to play it by himself. He used it to close concerts for years afterwards and similarly it should close the album, but unfortunately The Mexican Connection had to come in and spoil it. It sounds like music you’d hear either in an elevator or The Sims.

In short, Streetlife Serenade could have been a great album but then the session players had to spooge all over it.

Streetlife Serenade track list:

  1. Streetlife Serenader
  2. Los Angelenos
  3. The Great Suburban Showdown
  4. Root Beer Rag
  5. Roberta
  6. The Entertainer
  7. Last of the Big Time Spenders
  8. Weekend Song
  9. Souvenir
  10. The Mexican Connection

Review: Solid State Survivor by Yellow Magic Orchestra (1979)

Second only to Dogs Playing Poker.
“ENJOYING HU-MAN LEISURE ACTIVITIES.”

Solid State Survivor comes straight from the space discotheques we’ll all be frequenting in the future.

Not long now…

On the surface it would be very easy to compare Yellow Magic Orchestra to Kraftwerk, seeing as they’re both electronic pop groups from the 1970s. However, the guys in YMO (Ryuichi Sakamoto, Haruomi Hosono, Yukihirio Takahashi) seem to owe a lot more to the likes of The Beatles than anybody else – even covering Day Tripper on this album. The rest is undoubtedly down to the influence of poet and scientician Chris Mosdell, who wrote most of the English lyrics.

Do I know what any of the songs are about? Nope.

Does that matter? Not at all, because it sounds cool.

What the fuck's happening here?
What the fuck’s happening here?

Technopolis opens the album with some moody cyberpunk Blade Runner vibes. It’s upbeat but unsettling at the same time, like being on the run from the Boogie Patrol. I think it’s in English but it’s all processed through a vocoder so I suppose we’ll never know. Absolute Ego Dance brings a quick end to your escape with the bouncy wail of the Boogie Patrol’s sirens as they catch up to you and haul your sorry behind to Robo-Jail.

Rydeen starts off with the clip-clop of a SynthHorse’s Cyber Hooves. Your gang has come to bust you out of Robo-Jail and a thrilling shoot-out ensues, with plenty of chasing! How exciting! This song is the Bullitt car chase of Solid State Survivor. The rest is brilliant, at times better, but why would you talk about anything else?

In Castalia you return to your gang’s hideout only for a bomb to go off just as you near the building. Somebody’s out to get you, and it looks like they’d kill everybody in the world until they got to you. You hide out in a MechaCave to try and figure things out a bit. On your way there you are stopped by a mysterious masked stranger, you see that Behind the Mask it’s your long-lost pal, Jenny, who had joined the rivalling Day Tripper gang.

Together, you infiltrate the Boogie Patrol’s HQ in the wee hours of the night, using your Insomnia to your advantage. You bring down the main generator just as their Elimination Squad is closing in, deactivating your attackers and destroying the Boogie Patrol for good.

Truly, you are a Solid State Survivor. You settle down with Jenny, have a few kids, the credits roll…

You saved the world tonight.

Solid State Survivor track list:

  1. Technopolis
  2. Absolute Ego Dance
  3. Rydeen
  4. Castalia
  5. Behind the Mask
  6. Day Tripper
  7. Insomnia
  8. Solid State Survivor

Review: Out of the Blue by Electric Light Orchestra (1977)

Jeff Lynne’s actual spaceship.

You probably know a bunch of the songs from this album already. It’s the one that’s got Mr. Blue Sky on it. You DO know that song. Don’t begin to pretend that you don’t.

What makes Out of the Blue a special album is that it manages to be a mostly cohesive record despite having so many well-known songs on it. A song like Jungle, for instance, is just as fantastic as Sweet Talkin’ Woman or the aforementioned Mr. Blue Sky.

All that said, this is not a perfect album. It’s not unlike if you happened to be making yourself some noodles. You start out with the pack, you think to yourself, “I’m just going to have myself a nice and simple noodle meal.” As those are boiling, you start getting some pretty grand ideas. You throw in all sorts of fantastic things, things you’ve never seen before, brilliant combinations of herb and spice that blow your mind.

The problem here is that you’re eventually going to run out of inventive ways to use that star anise in the back of the cupboard. There are definite signs of brilliance throughout the album, despite a relatively plain start (Sweet Talkin’ Woman is where it really picks up), and it all culminates in the original Side Three of the album – the Concerto for a Rainy Day suite – featuring the inevitable Mr. Blue Sky.

Unfortunately, what goes up must come down. The final four songs are by no means bad but they do suffer somewhat for their placement in the album. After you’ve just gone and stuck the best song in the whole world partway through your album, what are you going to do?

Sweet Is the Night is probably the best of the bunch and bears a slight resemblance to the Smashing Pumpkins’ Sweet Sweet (from Siamese Dream). The Whale is a very nice instrumental that helps tuck the album in for bed, with Birmingham Blues and Wild West Hero being the final romp before sleepytime.

Now, I don’t mean to distract from the other songs on the album at all, I just feel there’s not much you can say about such absolutely, undeniably great songs that they don’t already say for themselves.

What does surprise me about the album (and Jeff Lynne’s output as a whole) is that a lot of the material is a bit on the melancholy side, something that is obviously evident in It’s Over, with even Wild West Hero expressing some deep longing.

“My life is pain.”

It’s this that helps to elevate the album from the cheesy pop-prog relic that it could be – it can be a bit of a shock in 2013 to hear music so shamelessly poppy alluding to something far darker in itself.

That’s not to say that Out of the Blue is an Alice in Chains-style dirge-fest, but ELO can often be unfairly dismissed on the basis of what’s heard on classic rock radio. If you don’t already own it then pick up this album (it’s cheap!) and decide for yourself, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

Out of the Blue track list:

  1. Turn to Stone
  2. It’s Over
  3. Sweet Talkin’ Woman
  4. Across the Border
  5. Night in the City
  6. Starlight
  7. Jungle
  8. Believe Me Now
  9. Steppin’ Out
  10. Concerto for a Rainy Day: Standin’ in the Rain
  11. Concerto for a Rainy Day: Big Wheels
  12. Concerto for a Rainy Day: Summer and Lightning
  13. Concerto for a Rainy Day: Mr. Blue Sky
  14. Sweet Is the Night
  15. The Whale
  16. Birmingham Blues
  17. Wild West Hero