Plug In Baby – Song Of The Day

Plug In Baby

The lead single from Muse‘s 2001 album Origin Of Symmetry, “Plug In Baby” was the band’s biggest hit at the time and it certainly helped put them on the map. About as dark and angsty as good old-fashioned Muse could get, the song opened with a cool guitar riff before evolving into a frenzied electronic rock tune with a Matt Bellamy on top screeching form and a memorable chorus. The video which accompanied the track also added a welcome burst of weird to the whole thing. It’s one of the band’s most essential songs and it’s well worth revisiting.

The 2nd Law – Album Review

The 2nd Law It seems that Muse can basically do no wrong at this point. With The Resistance, the band introduced new colourful elements into their style which certainly contrasted with their infinitely darker and angstier beginnings but, instead of alienating their entire audience, they were applauded for showing such versatility and daringly reinventing themselves.

The Resistance was a fun glam rock album with some enjoyable Queen-style over-the-top moments: it was still very much a Muse album but it had a playful feel to it which was welcome. Their follow-up, The 2nd Law, came three years later and promised something completely different, something very experimental: a new era for the band.

So, as with every experiment, let us look at the results and see if it worked.

The album opens with “Supremacy”, an explosive James Bond-style opening, a battle song with some lyrical moments and some rockier ones as well as a lot of Sparks-style grandeur and camp. The song’s overall crescendo is very cool and it delivers with an appropriately kickass ending. It’s the perfect way for the album to start and promises many more great things to come. The second single to be released from the album, “Madness”, is next and it’s a more R&B effort with dancier electro beats and tones. You’ve got a nice melody surrounded by a perfectly nutty rhythm, a great build-up and it all gets pretty atmospheric near the end.

So far, so good. The third song, “Panic Station”, opens with an 80’s Genesis-style beat before delivering some decidedly Oingo Boingo-esque verses with some very Danny Elfman vocal work. The song is a hell of a lot of fun but it’s also worryingly derivative. Hell, even the chorus sounds like something Franz Ferdinand would have come up with years ago. Next up is “Prelude” and it’s exactly what you think it is: a prelude to the next song. A piano and violin-led instrumental transition, it’s actually very dramatic and very pretty so it would be a shame to skip it.

“Prelude” leads us to “Survival”, a surprisingly grand, operatic anthem which opens on choruses, lures us in with a slow build-up before entertaining the hell out of us as it reveals itself to be yet another battle song. It’s an ambitious, theatrical track but it definitely works. The next song, “Follow Me”, also opens with a quiet, almost a capella intro. This is underlined by some electronica which grows underneath the song throughout and, eventually, we get an overall catchy retro tune with a dancier beat kicking in about halfway.

Song number 7 is “Animals” and it’s a softer, more chilled-out track with a mysterious vibe to it. You’ve got some cool solos in there and the song is ultimately compelling if not the most memorable one on the album. “Explorers” is an entertaining slow-burner with a decidedly Queen-esque camp feel to it. It’s got a genuinely nice melody which should keep you listening till the end.

“Big Freeze” hits you straight away in that it sounds exactly like an early U2 song. It’s not at all subtle about it, either. This makes it distractingly derivative but, luckily, a killer, very Muse chorus makes it all worthwhile. Besides, the song is admittedly very fun as a whole. Next is another transition track, “Save Me”, which starts off kinda like a lullaby and remains rather soft throughout. It is the first song on the album to be sung not by Matt Bellamy but by bassist Christopher Wolstenholme. Musically it’s not bad at all but it’s pretty forgettable.

Wolstenholme also sings the next track, “Liquid State”, and that’s blindingly obvious since it sounds like no other Muse song ever put together. Instantly rockier and heavier than anything on The 2nd Law, this one sounds like a really good, grungy Nine Black Alps track or something. The chorus is sadly slower than the rest of the song but it works well enough nonetheless. I like it but I could see Muse fans being pretty taken aback by its radically different approach.

Finally, we have the final two tracks, “Unsustainable” and “Isolated System”, which I’ve decided to group together since they’re both basically instrumental epilogues to the album. “Unsustainable” is a grand, orchestra and chorus-led movie score-style track which would feel right at home on the Avengers Assemble score or something to that effect. It is instrumental save for some TV reports being played here and there during it and the whole thing devolves into Daft Punk-esque electro dance folly. It’s a loud and obnoxious ending to that particular track but some will no doubt love it.

“Isolated System” isn’t quite as epic as its predecessor, prioritising a slow-beat-driven build-up rather than orchestral madness. It’s not bad and its electro beat is engaging but it’s a disappointingly anti-climactic end to the album. Perhaps it would have worked better as a prelude to “Unsustainable”?

Anyway, what to make of The 2nd Law?

It’s honestly pretty decent and whether you’re a fan of the band or not, it’s so varied and experimental that you should at least find a couple of songs to shake that head of yours to. I would say, however, that it does lack the unity that The Resistance had as that made all the songs on that particular album work brilliantly together, even if they did go weird places here and there.

Also, it’s overall so derivative that you almost forget you’re listening to a Muse album so that might piss off fans of the band’s earlier stuff. Besides, these constant tangents into songs that sound like they should be sung by other bands are altogether pretty distracting. There are still gems in there and some very Muse moments but it’s certainly not as successfully experimental as their 2006 masterpiece Black Holes And Revelations.

You’ve got some great songs on The 2nd Law and it’s certainly worth a listen but, be warned, as an experiment it’s only partly successful.

A solid 3 Happy Goths out of 5. Think of it as a 3 and a half, in fact.

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Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby – Song Of The Day

Louis Jordan

Written by Louis Jordan and Billy Austin, “Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby” was a cool 1944 jazz song which topped the US country/folk charts back in the day despite being a B-side of “G.I. Jive”. The song, which eventually became something of a jazz standard tune, was of course covered by many since its release. Most notably, Tom (voiced by Ira Woods), serenaded a lady cat to the song in an episode of Tom & Jerry.

Shock The Monkey – Song Of The Day

Shock The Monkey

Peter Gabriel‘s first real solo hit in the US, “Shock The Monkey” was released back in 1982 and boasted a rather dark and odd video as well as a hugely catchy hook which was definitely hard to shake off. The song had an engaging driving beat, a cool chorus and great vocal work from Gabriel himself. There’s a slightly unsettling atmosphere to this song and yet it also manages to be quite light and tons of fun overall, proving once and for all that monkeying around can certainly have its advantages.

Like A Stone – Song Of The Day

Like A StoneEasily one of the best and most atmospheric songs on Audioslave‘s self-titled debut album, “Like A Stone” is a dark, moody, simple yet beautifully crafted little track which was a perfect display of the band’s slightly sinister, melodically rich, rocky, clean sound differentiating it from Chris Cornell‘s grittier work with Soundgarden. It’s a straight-forward track but an effective one, luring you in with its slow-burning, hypnotic tones, delivering a gloomy, effortlessly cool pseudo-ballad that’s well worth checking out.

Still Alive – Song Of The Day

CakeHere’s one for gamers.

Portal was one of the most original new games out there when it came out a few years ago and, among the many things we took from it, was a song which ended the game in style. That song was “Still Alive”. Written by Jonathan Coulton. it was sung by that evil GLaDOS bot you’d just spent a good 20 minutes trying to beat and it was pretty glorious. The Portal games always had a great sense of humour and the way the first game ended was simply perfect, promising many more great things to come. But as cool as the song at the end of the second game was, it just couldn’t match “Still Alive” in terms of sheer silliness and catchiness.

Cherchez Le Garçon – Song Of The Day

Cherchez le Garçon

From their debut album of the same name, 80’s French new wave band Taxi Girl‘s “Cherchez Le Garçon” is about as beautifully dated, minimalist and cool as you’d expect. With simplistic lyrics delivered with Human League-style deadpan, this is a fun synth-led little song that’s not about much of anything really but which somehow works completely. Entertaining stuff, a guilty pleasure for sure.

Tequila – Song Of The Day

Tequila

Written by Daniel Flores (aka Chuck Rio), “Tequila” was a 1958 song first recorded by The Champs. It was famously instrumental except for the occasional burst of “Tequila!”. One of the quintessential party songs, The Champs’ dirty sax-led tune is still a lot of fun to this day and belongs on every jukebox out there. Its simplicity, relentless rhythm and amusingly abrupt ending help make it as charming as it is. Of course, like many others, I was first introduced to the song by Pee-Wee Herman in the film Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, which saw the character bond with a bunch of blood-thirsty bikers with simply a pair of high-heeled shoes and “Tequila”. Classic.

Collisions – Album Review

Collisions

The fourth album from New York-based indie rock band Calla, Collisions was one of my personal favourite albums to come out of 2005. Unfamiliar with the band at the time, this came pretty much out of nowhere and quietly blew me away.

With Calla on hiatus since 2007, it’s a mystery whether we’ll get another album from them any time soon so it’s the perfect opportunity to discover or re-discover some of their older works.

But how does Collisions stand up today? Is it as good as I recall?

Well, the first track, “It Dawned On Me”, certainly starts things off in style with a great hook, a moody, catchy melody pushed forward by an energetic, upbeat rhythm. The song sets the tone for the rest of the album with its effortlessly cool, slightly sinister yet thoroughly entertaining vibe. It helps that it’s followed by “Initiate”, a slower, darker, sexier song with another brilliant hook and another memorable melody. It’s an atmospheric, bittersweet track which works perfectly, cementing the album early on as one to keep listening to.

Calla keep the momentum going with “This Better Go As Planned”, a beautifully delivered, grungy track with a more gothic tone, an irresistible crescendo and a simple yet effective rhythm. The dark chorus is the icing on the cake, topping off an already terrific song with another really cool pay off. Another cool track with a great build-up is “Play Dead”, which is definitely more chilled-out and provides some decent breaks.

“Pulvarized” is next and its slow, off-beat rhythm merges with the whispers-like vocals really well leading to a soft but charming chorus which helps give the whole song a moody, dream-like feel. The album encounters its first “dud” with “So Far, So What”, a more experimental track which starts off slow but doesn’t really deliver on its build-up. The somewhat more bitter lyrics give the song something of an edge but not enough to make it stand out: the chorus is a little disappointing. It’s not that bad of a song, really, it just falls a bit flat.

Song number 7 is “Stumble”, a slightly more upbeat track with a great hook and a laid-back Dandy Warhols-esque opening. It’s a cool, moody little song which gets the album promptly back on track after a mild, well… stumble. It is followed by “Imbusteros”, not so much a full song as it is a long, mysterious, latin-sounding transition. Not much to say about that one, really.

This leads us to song number 9, “Testify”, a rockier tune with more of a 90’s feel thanks to its grungier, feedback-driven approach. It’s not the most memorable track of the bunch but it’s fun and enjoyable nonetheless. “Swagger”, meanwhile, certainly lives up to its name by delivering tons of swagger, a killer rhythm, hook and vocals. It develops at a brisk, perfect pace and it’s instantly hummable thanks to its contagious melody/chorus.

To put it simply: it’s a hit.

Finally, we have “Overshadowed”, a very slow lullaby-style song which ends Collisions on a soft, sleepy note. It picks up a little about three minutes in but then it devolves into an instrumental outro. Again, not so much a full song as it is a “dot dot dot” transition to the album.

A more explosive ending and perhaps one more kickass song could have made Collisions the perfect modern dark indie rock album. As it stands, it’s still an underrated, surprisingly cool and moody effort that’s well worth checking out.

It’s quite probably the band’s best achievement so, until they get back to work, definitely go back and listen to it.

Quality stuff well deserving of its 4 Happy Cobains out of 5.

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A View To A Kill – Song Of The Day

A View To A Kill

The very last film to have Roger Moore play James Bond, A View To A Kill, may not be the most remembered or adored of the bunch but it certainly had a few cool things going for it. One of them was Duran Duran‘s very 80’s theme song which certainly did the job. With its thumping beat, its luring build-up and its grand chorus, “A View To A Kill” was Duran Duran at their best. It remains, to this day, one of my personal favourite Bond themes.