Tin Machine – Album Review

Tin Machine Album

Formed in 1988, Tin Machine was a rock band fronted by David Bowie with Reeves Gabrels on guitar, Tony Sales on bass and Hunt Sales on drums. The project was a way for Bowie to get back to basics with a more raw sound and put his jamming sessions with Gabrels to good use.

The band released their debut, self-titled album in ’89 along with four singles. They would make one other album after that before Bowie returned to his solo work.

How did this debut fare?

The opening track, “Heaven’s In Here”, boasts a very bluesy rhythm and riff throughout and it builds to some excellent guitar solos. It’s refreshing to hear Bowie giving so much freedom to a band and serving as simply the frontman, for once. Hard not to move your feet to this one. The title song “Tin Machine” is a faster-paced punk track that’s a hell of a lot of fun. It was the third single to be released from the album.

“Prisoner Of Love” is next and it’s a slightly darker track that’s also slightly more glam and, by extension, more Bowie. It’s a beautiful song with a catchy hook, great lyrics and first class work from the entire band who already prove themselves to be pretty damn awesome. “Crack City”, like “Heaven’s In Here”, really feels like a 70’s song. It’s very much a track built for live performances with its loud chorus and its buckets of swagger and energy. Expect more fab solos from Gabrels and a bit of a soul vibe throughout as well.

“I Can’t Read” follows and this one feels much more playful yet experimental, almost improvisational even. The screeching guitars are all over the place as the rest of the band figures out the track little by little. It’s not the catchiest of the lot but it still carries that demo-esque raw energy the project promised plus Bowie seems to play a kind of desperate character here, which is entertaining.

You simply can’t go wrong with “Under The God”: it’s the first single to be released from the album and it’s a cracker. Written by Bowie, this is a rocky, punky track worthy of Iggy & The Stooges. With its best-screamed chorus and its bluesy hook, it’s easily one of the best tracks from the band, and that’s saying a lot. Next is “Amazing”, a more chilled-out song with a timeless quality to it. It taps into a vintage rock sensibility which makes it feel like a cover of an old, classic track despite being original. Pretty amazing, indeed.

Speaking of covers, next we have “Working Class Hero”, a cover of one of John Lennon‘s most well-known tracks and one of Bowie’s favourites from the artist. The band does a good job at doing something different with it, not simply imitating the original. This version’s much more dancy and upbeat. While it’s basically impossible to outdo Lennon’s own, this is given the Tin Machine treatment and it works well both as a cover of a classic and as a song from Bowie’s band.

“Bus Stop” opens with a punk riff and, in fact, it feels like a song you could have seen the likes of The Clash come up with. A Joe Strummer cover of this one would have been cool to hear. Gotta love how short and sweet this song is, makes it just perfect. A country version of the track also exists but it doesn’t beat the one described above. Up next is “Pretty Thing” and it’s an erratically-rhythmed rock song with loads of energy and Bowie breaking up the constant beat with his vocals much like John Lennon does in “Cold Turkey”. It’s yet another terrific, fast-paced song which must have kicked ass live.

“Video Crime” is a slower, bluesier track with hip-hop-style vocals and, while it’s a good song with some superb guitar work, you could see a punk version of this one giving it a welcome extra layer of attitude, though you might then miss out on some of Gabrels’ best solos from this album. “Run” has more of a Stranglers vibe to it with the darker toned riffs and moodier vocals. Armed with a catchy chorus, genial solos, some clever breaks and fantastic vocal work from Bowie, this is easily one of Tin Machine’s finest.

“Sacrifice Yourself” is another live-friendly anthem with a faster rhythm and an ingenious mix of hard rock, soul and blues. It’s a short one but it makes for two extremely entertaining minutes. Final track “Baby Can Dance” feels very much like a Bowie effort and, indeed, he wrote this one which bears his trademark unexpected key changes and experimental vocal work. It’s a good choice to end the album on as it leaves us on a high note with its memorable chorus and epic scale. It’s the kind of big finish Bowie usually avoids but he has a ball with it here.

What can I say about Tin Machine’s debut album except…

Mission accomplished.

If Bowie’s core plan for this band project was to get back to basics and deliver an incredibly fun rock album which would showcase his collaborators’ talents then his plan certainly worked out. But Tin Machine feels more than just an enjoyable side project, it’s an experiment that, as a whole, doesn’t feel so much experimental as it does fundamental. It’s a homage to different styles of rock n’ roll from a group of guys who can deliver original work which still feels timeless and classic to this day.

Tin Machine gets a very high 4 Ziggies out of 5 from us and we recommend it as a must for any Bowie or rock fan.

Brilliant stuff.

Ziggy MAskZiggy MAskZiggy MAskZiggy MAsk

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Lex Hives – Album Review

Lex Hives

After exploding onto the scene with Veni Vidi Vicious and best-of Your New Favourite Band, Swedish rock band The Hives delivered a couple more solid records before coming back in 2012 with Lex Hives.

As their first self-produced album post-fame, Lex Hives had the pressure of popping up 5 years after the band’s last effort and, by that point, UK and US audiences pretty much wrote off The Hives as little more than two-hit wonders who kicked ass back in the early Noughties so this one needed to be something special.

And something special it certainly was!

The first track, “Come On!” has simple lyrics to say the least. In fact, the words “Come on!” are basically it. Luckily, the song is a short and sweet adrenaline shot of punk energy that opens things on a perfect, fun note and leaves you wanting more straight away. If this playful minute-long opener doesn’t hook you in right there and then, then you are one hard person to please. I mean… come on!

“Go Right Ahead” is the first single to be released from the album and it’s an enjoyable track with a 70’s beat, a catchy repeated backing hook and a rockabilly-ish chorus. The whole thing has an old-fashioned feel, in a good way. The fun continues with a faster-paced and, therefore, very Hives song, “1000 Answers”. This one is a cool, punky tune with a killer chorus which elevates it to one of the best tracks on the album. Also look out for some experimental distorted electronic sounds creeping in the background.

“I Want More” is a slower track with lower-toned vocals and a paced beat. It’s another old-fashioned one and although it’s not as catchy as the tracks preceding it, it’s still very entertaining and should be a fun one to jump up and down to at concerts. The single “Wait A Minute” is next and it’s another instantly spot-on track: loads of fun and catchy as hell. The song develops beautifully, with creative bridges, breaks and key changes throughout. It’s easily one of the best of the bunch.

Song number 6 is “Patrolling Days”, a punky track with some welcome Ramones-esque attitude crossed with some Iggy & The Stooges-style energy. It never feels too derivative, thankfully, and never forgets to be purely a Hives song. All in all, it’s edgier and pretty damn cool. As for “Take Back The Toys”, we’re back in classic Hives territory and the track is like an updated and frankly better version of their classic “Hate To Say I Told You So”: it’s grittier, more varied and boasts just as much charm as their old hit.

“Without The Money” follows and, after opening with a strangely sexy beat, it then turns into more of a simple march, going back to that original beat near the end. It’s a short transitional track with some brilliant lyrics which show the band’s dry sense of humour perfectly. This leads us to “These Spectacles Reveal The Nostalgics”, a two-minute-long fast-paced punk track with lots of attitude and lots of energy. What more could you ask for?

“My Time Is Coming” is a little different. After a low-voiced, dramatic intro evoking Tom Waits and The Smashing Pumpkins somehow, the song develops into some kind of screamy gospel rock tune almost. An odd direction for it to go, granted, but it works. The next song is “If I Had A Cent” and that one’s simply all about the fantastic chorus. Parts of this one have a weird Oingo Boingo quality in terms of Pelle Almqvist’s mouthy vocals but, mostly, this is another kickass, rough rock track.

“Midnight Shifter” has a 60’s soul quality and its lighter feel makes it a nice breather after such a punchy and relentless album. This is a dancier tune with a “Roll Over Beethoven” kind of melody and a catchy hook. Oh, and trumpets. Gotta have trumpets.

Two bonus tracks are featured as B-sides to the album including covers of Alex Carole And The Crush‘s “High School Shuffle” and The Dragtones“Insane”. Though the latter is enjoyable and the former is an intriguingly structured track, neither is entirely necessary.

So that’s Lex Hives and, honestly, this is one of the most fun albums I’ve listened to over the past couple of years and it’s probably my favourite from the band. It’s The Hives back at their best and, should they keep this momentum going, they might actually deliver something so good it’s ground-breakingly good next time!

As it stands, I do love it and give it 4 Teary Punks out of 5.

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Come on now, check it out.

Days Go By – Album Review

Days Go By

When The Offspring‘s Days Go By came out two years ago, I was genuinely looking forward to it and was curious to see what the band had come up with this time.

Days Go By, I soon found out, was a mixed bag to say the least.

“The Future Is Now” kicks off the album on a high note: it’s an appropriately explosive song that’s, indeed, very Offspring. “Secrets From The Underground” follows and, as familiar as it sounds, it’s still energetic and enjoyable enough to justify its existence. Then we get title song “Days Go By”, a remarkably dull effort. I can never seem to listen to it all the way through. It’s not “terrible” I guess, the chorus is fine at least, but it never takes off. I just couldn’t get interested in it at all. Thinking about it, this one would probably work better on a Green Day album with Billy Joe Armstrong’s voice more suited to this type of tune. “Turning Into You” is next and we’re back in safe hands although, once again, this feels like another band’s song.

But fear not, “Hurting As One” is very much Offspring territory. It’s a good song with the attitude we were waiting for since the start of the album. It’s got oomph, energy and feels like it belongs. It could almost be part of the album Conspiracy Of One.

Then we get…

“Cruising California (Bumpin’ In My Trunk)”

Oh dear…

Right away, it’s pretty clear this isn’t really The Offspring: we are WAAAAY OFF-spring. It’s like The Black Eyed Peas ate up a bunch of stray hyenas, spat them out and got them to sing a capella! “Cruising California” is the very definition of guilty pleasure. Actually, it’s a pastiche of mindless California Summer pop songs and, as that, it works beautifully. Weird Al Yankovic must be pissed. It’s so convincing, in fact, that it forgets to be a good Offspring song in the process. As a song from that particular band, it’s horrendous but as a joke it’s a hilarious little bit of nonsense. You get an auto-tuned Dexter Holland, “Pretty Fly”-style “U-huhs” agogo, lines like “I wanna feel it!”, “Waving her caboose”, “My friends are drinkin’!” and probably the most lolgasmic bridge of the year.

These guys have officially out-Bloodhound Ganged The Bloodhound Gang!

Respect, my friends.

Respect.

Not sure if I would have released that one as the first single though, I mean it’s not like it reflects the rest of the album in any way. That was a silly move… but kinda genius also because it’s so out there for the band that it’s basically a must own. Sadly, the following song, “All I Have Left Is You”, is just plain awful. Tired, cheesy, forgettable. It’s like a bad U2/Nickelback remix. I guarantee you’ll skip 30 seconds in.

Now “OC Guns” is another story. This one tries something completely different mixing Beirut-style trumpets with Red Hot Chili Peppers-esque reggae rhythms you’d kinda expect Anthony Kiedis to be singing along to. As an Offspring song, it’s odd and cartoonish but it works. We’re also given a re-recording of Ignition‘s “Dirty Magic”, which I would complain about if that song wasn’t so darn cool.

So it’s not a new song, big deal. At least it’s good!

It’s followed by an uninspired Foo Fighters-sounding effort (“I Wanna Secret Family”), an actually decent tune (“Dividing By Zero”) which I could definitely see myself playing Crazy Taxi to, and the not too bad “Slim Pickens Does The Right Thing And Rides The Bomb To Hell”, a fun little track. Nice title, also.

Overall? The biggest problem with this album is that most of it sounds like The Offspring parodying or imitating other (mostly lesser) bands. It’s not bad in that it does have its share of good songs and one of the sweetest guilty pleasures you’ll ever hear but it could have been a hell of a lot better.

Worth a listen but hardly a must-have.

I give it 3 Teary Punks out of 5, and I’m being generous.

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¡Uno! – Album Review

Green Day

After the relatively disappointing 21st Century Breakdown which, despite being an ok enough album in itself, didn’t quite have the impact that American Idiot did, Green Day decided to release not one but three albums in a row, the first one of which was ¡Uno!.

It could have gone either way.

The ambition could have either paid off or been kinda like when The Red Hot Chili Peppers released Stadium Arcadium: a mostly bloated and somewhat repetitive outing.

Luckily, the band’s album trilogy boasted enough really strong material and enough sharp bursts of energy to make it work. Oh sure it wasn’t all completely memorable and the best stuff could have easily been regrouped into two albums but even the lesser tracks were pretty good so why waste them?

On that note, let’s take a closer look at ¡Uno!.

The album opens with a very Green Day song, “Nuclear Family”, which is energetic, catchy, full of brilliantly timed breaks and F bombs: it’s unmistakably theirs with added foul-mouthed attitude (always a plus). “Stay The Night”, the second song, is just as catchy and enjoyable but much sweeter. Like “Sweet 16” and “Oh Love”, the first released single for the album, it’s a love song which avoids any sort of cheese by being genuinely heartfelt. “Sweet 16” boasts a pretty melody while “Oh Love” begins very slow, eventually building up to a really effective, memorable, hymn-like chorus.

The melodically varied “Fell For You” is also a love song but with added swagger and irony. I mean, the song opens with Billie Joe singing about sweating so much he thought he “pissed the bed” and builds up to a rather adorable chorus.

Another single was “Kill The DJ”, the fifth track on the album, and it’s quite probably the closest the band has come to a dance song. It’s blindingly simple but genius in its own way: its harsh, double-minded lyrics are irresistible and help create a strange vibe of mean-spirited partying. An instant classic anthem for the band.

There are also punkier tracks on the album like “Let Yourself Go”, a fun, upbeat, catchy, rebellious little song which brings some welcome attitude to the table without being too angsty and “Loss Of Control”, an entertaining, moodier song with more of an emo feel to it. The latter’s not too memorable, unfortunately.

“Carpe Diem” is essentially a battle song which means that it gets a little repetitive but in a good way. It’s a riot and boasts a cool chorus. As for “Troublemaker”, the song has a really fun opening reminiscent of The Hives almost but, as a whole, it’s mostly forgettable. It’s still definitely worth a listen, though, if only for the instantly likeable, different beat. Another track that’s more about the ride than it is about a catchy chorus is the speedy “Angel Blue”, which is fun while it lasts but which doesn’t exactly stand out either. 

Finally, we have “Rusty James”. Again, not the catchiest tune in the bunch but another entertaining effort. This one actually feels a bit like a drinking song. It has that kind of camaraderie feel to it.

While maybe not a life-changing compilation, ¡Uno! is still a terrific Green Day album and the start of a very solid trilogy. There’s never a dull moment listening to it and it contains a handful of gems that fans should go nuts for.

If you’re not into Green Day, though, this isn’t the album that will sway you. It’s very much in tune with what they’ve been doing since 2004 and is only experimental in very short bursts.

Still, as a whole it’s good enough to warrant 4 Teary Punks out of 5.

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