Category Archives: Rock

BE – Album Review

BECover

The second and final studio album from Liam Gallagher‘s post-Oasis project Beady Eye, BE was released in 2013 and reached number 2 in the charts. It received mixed reviews with some critics calling it better than Different Gear, Still Speeding and others panning the tone and lyrics.

Beady Eye’s first album was a bombastic yet somewhat messy effort, packed with big, overproduced tracks, sleepier heard-it-before attempts at a late Oasis sound but also, luckily, some genuinely fun tunes. There was visibly an attempt, with this second album, to try something completely different. A wise move, even if this didn’t pay off with further albums. Now that Liam’s solo career has thusfar proven to be a resounding hit, I thought that it might be worth hearing the album back, giving it a fair shot.

Initially, BE goes for a familiar, grand, big-band sort of sound with catchy opener “Flick Of The Finger”, which may not boast a chorus but gets the job done getting you excited for what comes next. Structure-wise, BE is a little uneven as it maintains a steady pace early on before settling on stripped-down guitar songs in its second half so it’s understandable why some might have criticised the album for that, though it should also be said that those final few tracks are easily some of the band’s best work.

Tracks like “Don’t Brother Me”, “Ballroom Figured” and “Start Anew” have an obvious John Lennon vibe to them, “Oh My Love” and “Give Peace A Chance” are even directly referenced, and they all work as olive branches towards Noel Gallagher, though there are some criticisms peppered in throughout.

You get the sense that Liam Gallagher is working through some inner conflicts in this album and these final few tracks capture his nostalgia for the Oasis days and his brother’s company, possibly some guilt for how things turned out and the need for a big change in the future. Liam’s personal life was also rocky by that point, to say the least, so this is a genuinely emotional end to an album that almost went the confident yet shallow route its predecessor did but, thankfully, didn’t.

This is by no means a sleepy album, I should clarify, as the likes of gospel-tinged single “Shine A Light” and underrated grungy anthem “Just Saying” (how was this not a single?!), even the groovier “Second Bite Of The Apple”, bring a sense of fun to the whole thing. These more easily accessible songs ironically feel a lot more experimental than anything in the last album, and this is a good thing. There are some slower, more repetitive tracks thrown in and those are admittedly a little patchier.

“Soul Love” and the folky “Soon Come Tomorrow” are both decent: the former is very late Oasis, the latter has a more American vibe you wouldn’t really expect from Liam and, even though they fizzle near the end, there’s enough good stuff in there that they work. “Iz Rite” and “Face The Crowd” also work, just not quite as well, and they lack a certain memorable factor, though the latter’s Stranglers-style rhythm is engaging.

Beady Eye/Liam Gallagher fans should have a great time with this album as it feels a lot more personal and inventive. Looking at BE in today’s context, it’s the perfect transition to Liam’s solo work as it ends on such a contemplative note that it seems like Liam was almost trying to tell us that this would, in fact, be Beady Eye’s (basically the old Oasis minus Noel) last bow. As for those less involved listeners, I think BE frankly still deserves a second look.

Between the more acoustic tracks’ unquestionably pretty melodies, the endearing let’s-try-something-new approach, the crisp, slick production and Liam’s vocals the best they’d been in years, this was a step in the right direction for the band and it was a pleasure revisiting it.

Much better than you remember.

Well worth 3 and a half Happy Cobains in my book.

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Beautiful Crutch – Album Review

American alternative rock band Dommin released their third studio album Beautiful Crutch last year and, with the promise of a darker yet more hopeful vibe after their somewhat downbeat previous efforts Rise and Love Is Gone, this looked like possibly the start of a new era for the goth/new wave metal group.

The first track, “Desire”, opens with a screech before settling into softer, melodic verses and occasionally building up to the rockier chorus. There’s a very good guitar hook keeping the song balanced throughout and a short but effective solo near the end. The vocals by lead singer Kristofer Dommin are passionate and bring a welcome edge to the song. “Show Me” is the first killer track of the album with its faster pace, its bluesier tone and its ridiculously catchy chorus. This is definitely one to open concerts with as it’s instantly recognizable and kicks butt no matter how picky you are with your music.

“The Scene” is next and it’s a solid, reflective, dramatic song with a stuttering rhythm, an emotional chorus and some clever breaks here and there. It’s also very catchy and another very concert-friendly tune for sure. It is followed by “This World”, which instantly evokes The Smiths with its darker lyrics and the Morrissey-esque vocals. It’s still very much a Dommin song, however, as it’s certainly heavier than anything the aforementioned artists ever did.

Then we have the title track “Beautiful Crutch”, a slow-burn where the vocals and the lyrics initially take centre stage before the rest of the song finally unveils itself through an evolving melody that gets catchier and catchier as it goes on. It’s certainly worthy of being the title track. “I Die” is a softer, darker and rather beautiful song about loneliness, loss and longing with a rockier chorus and a short but sweet guitar solo halfway through.

Song number 7 is “Vulnerable”, which opens with a faster beat and a melody slightly reminiscent of Blondie‘s “Call Me” but with a significantly moodier, more emotional vibe. The song somehow gets more hopeful and upbeat as it goes on so its constant evolution plus the catchy chorus make it never dull. Then comes “The Flame” and, right off the bat, this is a completely different animal altogether. With its violins playfully marking the rhythm and its musical-style vocals, this is an experimental track which tries something rather unique by mixing a couple of very different genres, similarly to how Muse went in a different, glammier direction with The Resistance.

It’s still a rock song, though, so don’t expect it to be so different you’ll be thrown.

“Madly” is another fun track. This one banks on its catchy, upbeat chorus but its real strength is the melody that permeates the verses. This is definitely one of the most commercial songs on the album but its radio-friendly nature is never off-putting. “The Saddest Dream” has a slow yet compelling build-up with an electro heartbeat marking the rhythm. You keep expecting it to suddenly rock out but it teases you until much later than you’d expect and it’s altogether a surprisingly epic track which should play really well at concerts, even an extended version with added solos and breaks. “Madly” takes its sweet time and is all the better for it.

Finally, we have “Outer Space” and it feels like the end track from the first minute with its airy, upbeat tone. This is basically a soul track with a bluesy tint which might not please fans of Dommin’s moodier, edgier stuff but after an album this strong, it’s certainly earned its final flight of fancy plus the vocals are top notch from start to finish and the proudly 80’s feel is enjoyably nostalgic.

There’s very little wrong with this new Dommin album: the songs are all well written, the vocal work from Kristofer Dommin is versatile and would even make Scott Stapp jealous at times, the whole thing is paced perfectly and the music itself is really good: you can tell there are genuinely talented musicians behind every track so Konstantine (keyboards), with the help of Cameron Morris (drums) and Billy James (bass) knock it out of the park. There are enough trademark motifs in the album to please the band’s long-time fans but also enough fresh ideas to bring in a new audience so I certainly recommend you try this album whether you think you’ll like it or not because, chances are, you will.

Beautiful Crutch is a very cool album which gets 4 Ziggies out of 5 from us and one hopes to see Dommin get bigger and bigger because they deserve it.

You can find out more about Dommin on Soundcloud and their Youtube Channel.

The Getaway – Album Review

Getaway

Indeed, the Red Hot Chili Peppers are back with brand new album The Getaway, their first major release since 2011’s I’m With You.

The latter may have been a decent album but the departure of John Frusciante was felt right away as a lot of the songs seemed like they had been tailored to the guitarist’s particular style so let’s hope this new effort gives replacement Josh Klinghoffer a fair shot.

The opener is title track “The Getaway” and it’s a funky slow-burn which builds to an atmospheric bridge and chorus. It’s never quite as catchy as it should be but it works and it’s an enjoyable lead-up to what comes next plus the final few verses are so good they leave you wanting more.

Then comes the first single “Dark Necessities” which cements the dancier, more Summer-friendly elements foreshadowed by the opening track with claps marking the beat, some excellent bass work by Flea and a reflective, memorable chorus. It’s everything you’d want and expect from a RHCP single: commercial yet catchy and ultimately irresistible. The solid piano work throughout helps give the track a pensive mood and Klinghoffer gets a simple yet effective and welcome solo near the end showcasing his own grungier sound.

Chad Smith opens “We Turn Red” with a thumping beat and the song soon reveals itself to be a good old-fashioned rap-style RHCP track with a genuinely pretty melody kicking in every so often. It evokes the likes of “Right On Time” or “All Around The World” in that it’s so disjointed it probably shouldn’t work but it totally does.

With “The Longest Wave”, Josh Klinghoffer finally gets the chance to show he’s not only nailed that core RHCP sound but he can handle softer, more melodic songs. The track itself is a ballad with an ambitious scale and although it’s not the most memorable one on the album, it’s still enjoyable. “Goodbye Angels” has a terrific build-up which should kick butt live and open gigs with a bang. Overuse of the gimmicky “‘ey-yo” line aside, it’s a solid track with some very good guitar and bass work, both of which really come into play during a thrilling extended dual solo ending the song with an appropriate jolt.

Next up is “Sick Love” and that one feels like a track you’d probably find on By The Way with added claps and an upbeat chorus. Josh Klinghoffer once again gets a short solo and it fits in well with the otherwise softer vibe and if you’re wondering who’s playing the piano, you’ll be surprised to learn it’s none other than Elton John. “Go Robot” instantly delivers one of the best bass-lines on the album and although the main verses kinda fizzle out, the solid chorus saves the song from being just a glorified instrumental and, with the help of that clappy beat and some nifty pieces of electro makes it a fun, worthy little track.

“Feasting On The Flowers” doesn’t give much for Anthony Kiedis to sink his teeth into at first but the chorus is creative enough to flesh the song out gradually as it develops into a dancy rag-time and a fun R&B tune. This leads us to “Detroit”, a more experimental track with yet another brilliant bass-line at its heart. The verses and the bridge are the real heroes here as the chorus, which could have worked in a Foo Fighters song maybe, leaves a lot to be desired.

The next track is “This Ticonderoga” and this one should please fans of the band’s rockier work as Klinghoffer gets to proudly grunge-out and mark the rhythm with short scratchy outbursts. By this point, you can really tell that the band has adapted to its new guitarist’s style and wrote those new tracks with this in mind. There’s a more melodic part to the song which also works really well.

“Encore” is not so much an encore as it is one of the catchiest, most melodically rich tracks on the album. It’s just one hell of a pretty song and it manages to not only keep those claps and that Summer feel but deliver a bittersweet vibe as well. Great work all around on that one: maybe the best of the bunch.

“The Hunter” is a slower, bluesier piano-led track with an overall 70’s mood. It’s not very catchy but it’s the Red Hots trying something different both vocally and musically, which is a good thing. It’s promising to see that the band is ready to experiment a little more with songs that may not sell loads of singles but bring something new and unexpected to the table nevertheless.

Finally, we have “Dreams Of A Samurai”, which opens with a piano and vocal choirs before turning into a rockier RHCP track. The song may be a bit all over-the-place but it works as a conclusion cleverly encompassing everything that made this album tick into an almost improvisational jazzy rock tune.

The Getaway does a lot of things right: the album uses Josh Klinghoffer correctly and, although it does provide some safer, more radio-friendly Summer singles, it’s also not afraid to experiment a bit and try some crazier ideas now and then, which is refreshing.

It doesn’t all pay off, most of the songs aren’t too catchy, but there’s something to be said about not having Chad Smith hammer down the same beat in every song like he did in Stadium Arcadium, giving the new guitarist a proper chance and letting Flea run wild with some of his best work in years. You can feel the teamwork that went into making this album and that makes for some good music for sure.

It’s 3 Red Hot Chili Fellas for The Getaway.

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It’s not vintage RHCP but still an enjoyable effort regardless.

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

Earthling – Album Review

Earthling

David Bowie released the album Earthling back in 1997 and, although it wasn’t too big of a hit in terms of sales, it was critically well received.

Let’s see if it’s dated well.

The opening song is “Little Wonder” and it was the second single to be released from the album. In fact, it did better than any of the songs on Earthling reaching number 14 in the charts. The track kicks off with a disjointed garage beat which comes and goes. The whole thing is best described as playful experimental Brit Pop with a catchy hook buried in a sea of conflicting rhythms and Snow White references. It is followed by “Looking For Satellites”, which also has a clubby vibe and sounds a bit like something Blur and Oasis would have cooked up together if they had gotten along.

“Battle For Britain (The Letter)” is next and you can expect more of that garage beat and some grungy guitar work from Reeves Gabrels. It’s another track which purposely goes all over the place, even jumping headfirst into random piano solos near the end. Clearly Bowie was having fun playing around with remixes in this album.

“Seven Years In Tibet” is a slower track and it’s also the last one to be released as a single. There’s a regular core beat to the song with increasingly elaborate effects and instruments backing it. The chorus is simply fantastic with the guitar kicking in and turning the song into a rocky anthem. You get the feeling that the band TV On The Radio were influenced greatly by this one.

“Dead Man Walking” is another erratic dancy single you could probably find in quite a few clubs in the late 90’s but this one has a much more Bowie vibe, at least in terms of melody. It was used in the film The Saint and includes a guitar riff once used in Supermen which was taught to Bowie by Jimmy Page. Far prefer the terrific acoustic version to this one, personally.

“Telling Lies” opens with whispers floating over a repeating garage beat. It’s a very layered track as Bowie accuses using the song’s title both in real time and in slow-mo and the whole thing speeds up and slows down at unexpected times. The chorus is the most accessible part of this one, which is another experimental exercise in controlled messiness. As is its follow-up “The Last Thing You Should Do”, which also goes all over the place. At this point, the album has become basically impenetrable and it couldn’t care less: it’s having too good a time.

“I’m Afraid Of Americans” is much more involving in that it’s got a more interesting rhythm to hang onto and the hook kicks in early. The track was co-written by Brian Eno and it’s surprising it wasn’t released as a single since it’s got loads of attitude and a raw energy to it which would have played well on the radio despite its not-so-pro-US lyrics.

“Law (Earthlings On Fire)” is the final track on the album and it’s a dancy one with distorted voices, melodies popping in and out and a purely electronic structure. It’s a far more enjoyable clubby tune than some of the others on Earthling as it keeps throwing musically interesting little bits and bobs throughout.

What to make of Earthling, then?

Here’s one album which should divide David Bowie fans completely. Earthling really is the artist going for something radically different, tackling new remixing techniques and jumping into a Brit Pop techno vibe completely. The good news is this makes for some truly wacky songs full of creativity, the bad news is it’s a little too hard to pierce through the wall of eclectic beats and distortions to enjoy Earthling as an album rather than just a curious piece of late 90’s frenzy. Those who enjoy club music should have a ball with this one but others will probably be turned off by the album early on.

That’s only 2 Ziggies out of 5 for Earthling, mostly because it just doesn’t sound quite Bowie enough making it a much less likeable outing than any of its successors.

Still cool to see the man tackle yet another musical style altogether and keeping up with the times, though. Plus the cover art for the album is one of my personal favourites.

Ziggy MAskZiggy MAsk

‘Hours…’ – Album Review

Hours

In 1999, David Bowie released the album ‘Hours…’ and it enjoyed mixed reviews, some critics calling it a masterpiece, others a lesser work from the music icon.

Is it one of Bowie’s best?

Let’s take a listen.

The first track on the album is also the first single to be released from it. “Thursday’s Child” has a pensive, moody vibe to it with a very 90’s beat underneath it all and choir-style backing vocals. It’s a song that’s both upbeat and downbeat somehow making it an intriguing listen, even if it’s not that catchy. It is followed by “Something In The Air”, an initially slower track which builds up confidently to a rockier and, in fact, very cool bridge and chorus. Great guitar work throughout this one, I should point out.

“Survive” is next and it’s a bit like a mix of the first two songs in that it’s both nostalgic and hopeful but also has an effective build up and a terrific guitar sound. It’s an atmospheric tune which aims to get a particular feeling, mood across and it does that perfectly. It’s the third single to be released from the album and its video sees a long-haired Bowie float around a kitchen.

As you do.

The following song is “If I’m Dreaming My Life” and Bowie goes down low vocally for this one. It’s a moody, kickass track which a growing and shrinking rhythm, poetic lyrics, a fab melody and a fantastic chorus. One of the best tracks on the album, definitely. Why this song wasn’t a single I’ll never know.

Speaking of singles, “Seven” was the last song to be released as one from ‘Hours…’. Written by both Bowie and Reeves Gabrels, it’s a beautiful, mostly acoustic track with a perfect build-up, an irresistible melody, a catchy hook and, again, a terrific guitar. My personal favourite on the album. Screeching guitars open the more retro “What’s Really Happening?”, a killer rock tune that feels like a classic from the very first note. Again, this is a single if I ever heard one.

The album picks up even more with really fun single “The Pretty Things Are going To Hell”, another rockier track with heavier guitars and a chorus designed for maximum live effect. This is probably the closest you’ll hear David Bowie get to doing metal so it’s pretty awesome, as you can imagine. Expect more excellent work from guitarist/co-writer Reeves Gabrels.

The next track is “New Angels Of Promise” and it’s another cracking, very Bowie tune with a cool chorus, some simply brilliant vocal work and a grungy, punky vibe throughout. This feels more like an early 90’s/late 80’s effort than a song recorded in 1999 and that’s a good thing for sure. “Brilliant Adventure” is more of a transitional ambient track and it has a very Eastern, Middle Eastern even, feel. It’s short but very pretty.

Finally, we have “The Dreamers”, which opens with short booms, then gives way to a faster rhythm and then a more disjointed, dancier one. It’s a retro-sounding, experimental track which tries a whole bunch of different things, all of which somehow work. It’s typical Bowie throwing something unpredictable at you to end the album on a high, creative note.

It’s surprising that critics were not all that emphatic about ‘Hours…’ as it’s easily one of David Bowie’s most underrated efforts. For such a short album, you’ve got a lot of great, memorable stuff in there. From the more atmospheric, slower tracks to the rockier ones, it’s pretty much all good: the singles prove themselves to be worthy and even the non-singles sound like they could have enjoyed a comfortable release of their own.

‘Hours…’ is an under-appreciated gem from Mr Bowie and it gets 4 Ziggies out of 5 from us.

Ziggy MAskZiggy MAskZiggy MAskZiggy MAsk

Heathen – Album Review

Heathen

Released in 2002, Heathen was seen as something of a comeback for David Bowie, at least in terms of how well it did in the charts. It not only enjoyed a notable success in sales but with critics also.

Heathen opens with “Sunday”, an atmospheric track which leads you into the album slowly, with a downbeat vibe. It kicks off just as the song ends, leaving you wanting more. Luckily, it is quickly followed by a very cool cover of The Pixies‘ “Cactus”, written by frontman Black Francis. Short and sweet is the best way to describe this one: a delicious, rock n’ roll appetiser for what follows.

“Slip Away” is next and it’s a jazzy, nostalgic tune with Mr Bowie in full crooner mode. There’s a soothing 60’s feel to the track in general but the beautiful chorus is pure David Bowie and the whole thing you could see at home in a full-on musical. One of the prettiest tracks on the album, without a doubt. Pete Townshend accompanies on guitar in the following track “Slow Burn” which was the first single to be released from Heathen. It’s also the track which earned Bowie a Grammy award nomination for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance and rightly so: “Slow Burn” is a fantastic song with fab vocals, guitar work and one hell of a chorus.

“Afraid” is next and it looks set to be the rockiest track yet with its fast-paced riffs when the chorus kicks in and, surprisingly, slows things down little by little adding an unexpected dose of regret and melancholy to the song. “I’ve Been Waiting For You”, a cover of an old Neil Young song follows and that one has Dave Grohl on guitar, delivering some welcome screeching backing twangs. It’s a terrific cover with a grungy tone, and you’d never guess the song originally dates back to 1968.

The seventh track is “I Would Be Your Slave” and, like the opening song, it’s a more atmospheric effort though this one has a sadder, more desperate feel to it. The non-intrusive synth backing (and guitar) do a good job at enhancing Bowie’s vocals, giving the beautiful lyrics even more weight. A cover of an old psychobilly song is next and proves that you just can’t go wrong with a song entitled “I Took A Trip On A Gemini Spacecraft”. Originally by Legendary Stardust Cowboy, the song is part-jazz, part-soul, a mish-mash of different styles which works surprisingly well, especially when the bridge kicks in.

“5:15 The Angels Have Gone” opens small with subdued backing choirs, a few guitar picks and lonely beats. There’s a bit of a surreal quality to the song which changes completely whenever the chorus pops up. It’s a slightly bizarre one but the verses are so pretty they make it well worth it. The second single to be released from Heathen, “Everyone Says Hi”, is arguably the lightest track on the album. It’s a well put-together song and it has some great moments, especially as it builds-up towards the end.

Next we have “A Better Future”, which opens with a bouncy beat which cleverly contrasts to the deadpan vocals Bowie delivers. It’s another track that’s hard to pin down since it’s constantly evolving and doesn’t have a conventional chorus but it’s definitely effective as a transition to the album’s final song, which happens to be the title track. David Bowie has a tendency to end his albums on more of a question mark but “Heathen (The Rays)” is actually more accessible, with its 50’s-style beat and upbeat vocals.

What to make of Heathen, then?

It’s easy to see why the album did as well as it did: there are some beautiful tracks on here and some kickass covers, Bowie himself is as good as ever and his band is extremely talented and versatile. Having said that, Heathen is a uniformly odd little creation. While it has its fun moments, it’s mostly quite moody and distracted, always going places you wouldn’t expect it to, as if it were constantly challenging you or Bowie himself was conveying his thought process when writing those tracks as they are happening, somehow. All in all, this is probably not everyone’s favourite album of his but it’s still a must since its greatest tracks are not only great, they’re damn great.

That’s 3 Ziggies out of 5 for Heathen, an album Bowie fans will no doubt have a great time discovering or re-discovering.

Ziggy MAskZiggy MAskZiggy MAsk

Reality – Album Review

Reality

Released back in 2003, Reality was David Bowie‘s 23rd album and it was greeted with average interest, its release feeling more underground and indie than most of the artist’s other albums.

Had people known this would be Bowie’s last album before a 10 year gap, would they have appreciated it more? Or was this really a mild effort?

Reality certainly doesn’t open half-assed with a very cool opening track, and first single, as “New Killer Star” brings with it a simple half-grungy half-country riff and moody vocals (and backing vocals) to create a fun track which builds expertly and goes creative places. There’s also an underlying sinister feel about this one you might not catch upon a first listen. The second track, “Pablo Picasso” is also the second single to be released from Reality and it’s another great tune though it’s a cover from Jonathan Richman (The Modern Lovers). It’s got a slightly mad, circusey synth hook, great lyrics and a very energetic Bowie going for it.

Though you might remember “Never Get Old” from the amusing Vittel ad David Bowie took part in to promote the album (“New Killer Star” later replaced the song) back in the day, it’s also actually a decent track on its own with a funky hook and a very cool chorus. The next track is altogether very different: somber, desperate, heartbreaking. “The Loneliest Guy” is an overlooked gem from this album which won’t exactly please those looking to party but play that song on a grey day and you’ll simply get it. A beautifully dark ode to melancholy.

Things pick up quickly as “Looking For Water” offers confident vocals, a thumping beat and a fantastic bass line all the way through. It’s an energetic, straight-forward yet irresistible track and one of the most fun on the album. Song number 6 is “She’ll Drive The Big Car”, which opens with a short harmonica solo before leading us to some poetic verses that make you wonder where the song will go from there but, luckily, we are then given a really effective chorus which is moodily underlined by the backing vocals. The song never takes off too much but it’s worth sticking around for that chorus.

My personal favourite track on the album is “Days”, a ballad and probably the softest song on Reality. It’s a heartfelt, beautiful little tune with a pretty melody which only gets prettier as it goes on. As soon as the beat finally kicks in, you know you’re in for something special as Bowie’s lyrics and vocals coupled with everything else about this song makes it one bittersweet treat: all of it just works. “Fall Dogs Bomb The Moon” is next and, while its lyrics make for a solid critique on corporate/military power, the subject matter could have been taken on with more gusto. As it stands, it works thanks to a catchy chorus but lacks a certain energy and anger.

The next track, “Try Some, Buy Some”, was written by George Harrison and was originally sung by Ronnie Spector but it somehow makes a lot of sense as a David Bowie track, the artist making the song his own and clearly loving singing it. It’s got that early 70’s feel but also a welcome modern touch which helps keep it fresh. The title track “Reality” then steps up and brings a faster-pace with it as well as some defiant laughing which punctuates the irony expressed through the lyrics playfully. It’s not the most memorable song on the album but it’s got enough attitude and great vocal work to keep anyone entertained.

“Bring Me The Disco King” is the final song on the album and, against all odds, it’s certainly not a disco song. In fact, this is an old track Bowie reworked several times before finally keeping things raw and going for a dark, jazzy, piano-led vibe. It’s a bittersweet, beautiful tune which grows slowly and, if you go for the Danny Lohner (Nine Inch Nails) mix, you’ll hear a rockier version which works even better somehow, though in a different way. It doesn’t exactly end the album with a bang, instead quietly turning off the lights and leaving you in a reflective mood.

What to make of Reality, then?

As we all know, bad David Bowie albums are hard to find and this one is no bad album at all. Calling it “mild” is stupidly harsh though one could see how a critic expecting something heavier would be disappointed. Reality goes for gritty yet polished simplicity, David Bowie delivering one great, unpretentious, honest track after the other with the help of a very versatile band which helps make each song as good as it can possibly be. There are stand out tracks but also a couple of more forgettable ones but even those are competently put together and worth a listen.

All in all, maybe not David Bowie’s very best but it’s an album I never tire of listening to and it gets a high 3 Ziggies out of 5 from us.

Ziggy MAskZiggy MAskZiggy MAsk

You’ll probably find yourself revisiting that one every so often.

The Next Day – Album Review

The Next Day

In 2013, David Bowie finally returned with a brand new album which delivered lots of new material, something the rock legend had not done in 10 years. The album was The Next Day and it was quickly critically acclaimed, the man proving once again that he could still bring the goods.

With its minimalist, subversive cover which used Heroes‘ classic album cover as a background, the album’s main message seemed to be: keep the past in mind but also paint over it to create something fresh and new.

Would this mean a complete reinvention from the artist or merely a cheeky update?

Let’s take a listen.

The album opens with title track “The Next Day” which was accompanied by one haunting (and bloody) religion-themed video starring Marion Cotillard and Gary Oldman. The song itself is a worthy opener as it’s fun, rocky and balances both a retro and modern vibe, thereby setting the tone for the rest of the album. One of my personal favourite tracks on The Next Day is “Dirty Boys”, a sleazy, bluesy gem which sounds like a Bowie/Tom Waits collaboration with its disjointed guitar and sax backing, the latter offering a pretty cool solo near the end.

The next track, “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)”, also had a music video attached to it and that one was more of a short film. It was directed by Floria Sigismondi and followed David Bowie and Tilda Swinton as a jaded married couple haunted by visions of their past selves as those versions of them start clashing and merging. It’s a surreal, experimental watch and a worthy one, for sure. The song itself is reflective, nostalgic and very Bowie.

“Love Is Lost” is next and, led by a thumping beat, it’s another slightly dark but very cool effort: one significant key change halfway through even brings to mind “Space Oddity” so, once again, you’ve got that retro vibe spliced into a definitely modern sound. One of the best on the album. The Steve Reich mix of this one is also worth checking out.

“Where Are We Now?” was the first single released from the album and, surprisingly, it’s one of the slowest. That said, it’s also one of the prettiest and most moving tracks on there as Bowie croons his way through a rather heartbreaking hymn to time and moving on. If that one’s perhaps too depressing for ya, “Valentine’s Day” is a much more upbeat track and it comes right after though if you follow the lyrics closely you’ll notice it’s in fact about quite a dark subject matter which gives it an unexpected sinister edge.

“If You Can See Me” is a much more erratic and experimental track with its scattered beat, dramatic synth and grand voice work by Bowie. This one won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but it’s certainly refreshing to see the man still come up with something so challenging and bold after all these years. Track number 8 is “I’d Rather Be High” and it’s a terrific anthem to the jaded. It’s a fun song with Bowie bringing a new wave feel to it with those higher-pitched tones of his and that deadpan chorus.

“Boss Of Me” was co-written by Gerry Leonard and it’s an inventive, constantly growing track packed full of subtle little surprises. Great guitar, vocals, sax, lyrics, it’s just one heck of a good track, though it’s tough to pin down since it goes very different directions throughout. Our favourite Starman then looks back to the Heavens for “Dancing Out In Space”, another creative track with a dancier vibe. Expect a very catchy hook and some wacky synth work.

“How Does The Grass Grow?” is also quite dancy at times but the main thing about this one is just how well put-together it is overall. Rocking melody, super catchy bridge with a bit of a Link Wray feel, fab guitar solos, unexpected key changes which take the track in whole new directions: this is Bowie at his most creative. The song was co-written by Jerry Lordan. “(You Will) Set The World On Fire” is, quite simply, kickass. The grungy guitar riffs, Bowie’s moody vocals, the upbeat chorus, it’s an overlooked gem and one of the artist’s best in a while.

The next song is “You Feel So Lonely You Could Die” and it’s a poetic effort with an old-fashioned 50’s vibe but also some gospel in there. It’s a heartfelt track which grows beautifully and it’s one of the most moving on the album. The final song on The Next Day is “Heat”, a dark, jazzy track which ends the album on a downbeat note as Bowie once again throws something avant-garde at you right at the end just to keep you guessing.

What can I say about The Next Day except that it completely deserves the positive response it initially received.

It’s easy to underestimate this one, especially if you’ve only heard one single released from it, but if you take the time and listen to the whole thing you’ll realise pretty quickly just how good it is. Not that David Bowie even needed a comeback but this album effortlessly cemented the fact that the man was just an artist through and through, and a hugely talented one at that. The Next Day is a burst of creativity from the cover art to the lyrics and each and every song as a whole. There are some fantastic tracks on there which feel timeless as Bowie skilfully merges old and new sounds to create something truly unique.

That’s 4 Ziggies out of 5 for The Next Day, a thrilling late album most classic rockers only dream of making nowadays.

Ziggy MAskZiggy MAskZiggy MAskZiggy MAsk

Crazy Clown Time – Album Review

Crazy Clown Time

After delivering some of the most unique and bizarre films of the past 20+ years, director David Lynch then decided to partake in some musical projects for a while. In 2011, he released his debut album Crazy Clown Time and he would follow it up two years later with The Big Dream.

Was this career jump a wise, worthy choice or more of a Kevin Costner singing country songs type of deal?

After all, while David Lynch’s voice is always a delight (see Twin Peaks for some rather loud examples), it doesn’t exactly strike as the obvious singing voice so let’s see how that turned out.

The opening song, “Pinky’s Dream”, buries the lead by not revealing singing Lynch and instead having Karen O from The Yeah Yeah Yeahs sing the tune. And what a tune it is! About as Lynchian as it gets, this is a fast-paced, dark, moody, driving song with some crafty reverbs and sound effects, bringing up images of a frantic, surreal highway chase. It’s, quite simply, a brilliant track and the perfect way to start the album.

Surprisingly, “Good Day Today”, goes for something completely different: a club-friendly remix of what sounds like some Angelo Badalamenti leftover sounds from his classic Twin Peaks score with an auto-tuned Lynch singing over a bouncy beat which includes the odd gunshot. There’s an upbeat but also desperate feel to this one and it is about as wacky as the above description suggests.

“So Glad” is a slower, somewhat more mean-spirited track which somehow works really well, Lynch’s voice blending in perfectly with the regular drum beat and the occasional guitar twangs. It’s one of those many songs on the album you find yourself quickly hypnotized by, wanting to know how it builds and what it builds up to. “Noah’s Ark” is next and sees David Lynch whispering about a “dark night” over sounds of a record skipping and repeating, plus the usual moody backing. Again, it shouldn’t work and yet it’s strangely compelling.

The next track, “Football Game”, is more playful as Lynch amusingly mumbles about going to a football game with a southern twang and what has to be a bag of hazelnuts in his mouth as an old-fashioned reverbed guitar rocks out throughout. “I Know” is in the same vein as “So Glad” and is just as atmospheric if maybe a little too similar in tone and feel. As for “Strange And Unproductive Thinking”, it can only be described as Lynch’s musical homage to Transcendental Meditation as the man talks, or rather echoes, about the subconscious and superconscious over a quietly booming beat.

“The Night Bell With Lightning” is a bluesier track the likes of Quentin Tarantino wouldn’t spit at, I’m sure. Lynch’s band showing off how well they’ve captured the director’s style in a slow yet cool instrumental tune. It is followed by one of this album’s highlights: “Stone’s Gone Up”. Like “Pinky’s Dream”, this is a ridiculously moody, fun track but, this time, David Lynch is on singing duties and he does a great job, nailing a not-super-easy to sing chorus and the more talky verses.

And now we come to “Crazy Clown Time”, the title track. Armed with one nutty video to say the least, it’s quite probably the wackiest song on the album but it’s also one of the best and most memorable. Lynch describes an out-of-control party in a kid’s voice, with all the naivety of a child, and the result is hilarious, hypnotic and… just so good. The music itself is, of course, also terrific.

Crazy clown time indeed!

Easily the best 7 minutes you’ll spend with your shirt off.

“These Are My Friends” is a more chilled-out track, a ballad almost, in which Lynch describes a bunch of stuff he has including a truck and “two good ears” before describing what his friends have: bluebirds, dogs and yellow baskets, mostly. It’s a good song with a silly sense of humour and, a lot like “Crazy Clown Time”, it’s pretty irresistible. “Speed Roadster” is the 12th song and Lynch tries to speak to someone on the phone in this one. Sounds a bit like he improvised the track as he went, which isn’t so far-fetched when you know the man’s mostly out-there work. The swearing throughout is entertaining but the song doesn’t stand-out as much as the others, unfortunately.

The next track, “Movin’ On”, has a similar beat as its predecessor but Lynch’s voice is higher pitched. Ultimately it has some nice melodic moments here and there but it’s another not-too memorable effort. The final song “She Rise Up”, is reminiscent of “Good Day Today” in that similar effects affect Lynch’s voice but this is a much darker tune which builds up slowly. It’s not bad and is actually quite pretty at times but a faster song would have really hit the spot at that point.

So what to make of the film director’s debut album?

Against all odds, it’s a winner! Lynch and his band capture the mood and humour of his films brilliantly and you can definitely picture scenes from Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive, Inland Empire and others as you listen. There are a handful of clear hits here everyone should have a good time with but really, this is one for fans who will likely love every minute of this strange, inspired little adventure.

“Crazy Clown Time” gets 4 Shady Dudes out of 5 from us.

I liked it so much I SPIT!

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