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.

Neighborhoods – Album Review

blink182

About 8 years following the disappearance of Blink-182 from everyone’s radar, the band finally decided to reunite and work on a new album: that album was 2011’s Neighborhoods.

The reviews were mixed for this one so let’s see if that’s justified or if some critics just didn’t get it.

The album opens with “Ghost On The Dance Floor” and a long but effective, fast-paced intro leads us to more familiar territory as we recognise the band’s style pretty much straight away. The chorus stands out as one of the best on the album and injects a dose of sadness to a tune which, it has been suggested, was possibly written with the untimely death of friend of the band DJ AM in mind. “Natives” is another energetic track which begins with a busy, hyper intro. It quickly develops into a moody, almost Placebo-esque angst-filled tune with an ironically calm chorus which somehow works surprisingly well.

“Up All Night” is the first single to be released from the album and it does build up interestingly with a more electronic sound mixed in with heavier riffs and clean vocals. The track works in waves, going faster or slower here and there and not necessarily in the expected places. A moodier chorus could have elevated this one to a more uniformly good song but I guess the fact it’s experimental is kind of the point so overall it does what it set out to do pretty well. A paced drum beat opens the more chilled-out “After Midnight” and, frankly, it’s a weird one to have released as a single seeing as the album includes far better, catchier songs. The chorus here is anti-climactic and simply lacks bite.

As for “Snake Charmer”, it crawls in with a sinuous bass and drums-led intro as a cool, heavy riff kicks in promising to be the perfect concert track. Unfortunately, the verses and chorus are far whinier than they probably should have been and you get a samey feel from the song in general. That said, the rockier parts are admittedly entertaining. The sixth song on the album is an atmospheric, vocals-less intro to the next track and it makes a fair transition.

We get a heavier, rockier start straight away with “Heart’s All Gone” and it looks set to be a genuinely worthy, punky tune… until the way too light and emo chorus. It ends up feeling not convincingly edgy despite brilliant work from drummer Travis Barker and the trio in general who are always musically sound at least.

Then comes “Wishing Well”, the real hit (and should-have-been single) of the album: it’s pure Blink-182 complete with a playful sing-a-long bridge and a very catchy chorus. It’s possibly the most memorable and consistent song on the album, probably because it develops well and ends up being ultimately a lot of fun. Another decent tune follows, “Kaleidoscope”, and this time we get Mark Hoppus and Tom DeLonge working together on the vocals more directly. It’s a typical track from the band but in a good way.

Now, if you like your songs packed with meaningless sounds like “ah ah aye” and “high ho” then the next track, “This Is Home”, is the track for you. It’s not bad (if nothing special) but it does sound like it was half written by the Seven Dwarves, which is a tad distracting. The beautifully titled “MH 4.18.2011” (originally meant to be called “Hold On”) sadly never really takes off so the more serious lyrics don’t really have an impact. This is the kind of track that Green Day, like it or not, can pull off really well and although the song does have some nice parts here and there it’s sort of forgettable.

“Love Is Dangerous” goes for a different beat and, armed with a memorable chorus, it somehow manages to be one of the best songs on the album even if I’m still not sure what the hell “Love is DANGEROHS” means. It could just be DeLonge’s odd pronunciation of that last word, though, I don’t know…

“Fighting The Gravity” is a slower, more experimental, still rather angsty track which inventively uses the words ‘This makes no sense’ as a recurring backing motif. Incidentally, the song is a bit messy. Finally, we end on “Even If She Falls”, a track very reminiscent of the band’s past hit “All The Small Things”. It’s an entertaining track and its familiarity should make fans of the old stuff nostalgic as it really is 100% Blink-182 all the way.

Well well, what to make of Neighborhoods?

Funnily enough, the album benefits from repeat listens. I’ll admit I wasn’t a big fan upon hearing it for the first time but a few songs on the album have grown on me over time so I could see fans of the band have a good time with this one. Actually, while uneven, the album is a very solid comeback album for Blink-182 with some hidden hits in there and promising new touches.

However, Neighborhoods really could have used more variety in terms of the songs and bolder, more unexpected moves as a lot of it either sounds too familiar or too tame. Perhaps exploring the electronic aspect could be an idea or just going all-out punk, putting the emo angst aside for a bit?

Also, that good old sense of humour simply must return.

Overall, that’s 3 Teary Punks out of 5.

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Fair effort.

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 Rasmus – Album Review

Rasmus

Although in the UK and the US, Finnish alternative (read: emo) rock band The Rasmus are mostly known for a couple of tracks, they’ve been working since 1996 and are, in fact, a big hit in Europe and back home.

The band’s latest album, 2012’s self-titled effort The Rasmus, is their eighth and marks their first album produced by Universal. Which, I guess, is why they decided to name this one after themselves, to mark the occasion in some way.

The Rasmus is the kind of band you know right away whether you like them or not. They’re hardly for everyone: far too soft for true rock fans, they instead constantly walk a fine line between goth pop and emo rock, a type of music that’s particularly popular in Finland but tends to do relatively well pretty much everywhere. With this recent album, they introduced an electronic element into their now familiar style.

Did it work?

Well, if the album’s first song is anything to go by, not really.

“Stranger” was the second single to be released from The Rasmus and that’s really surprising since it’s, by far, one of the weakest songs on the album. It’s soppy, corny and the new electro sound just makes the whole thing sound like generic fast-food pop fare. It’s a really light track to kick things off with and doesn’t promise much.

The second song (and first single), “I’m A Mess”, is also very poppy but, at the very least, its chorus is undeniably catchy. It’s one of those ear-worms you wish wasn’t stuck in your head, though. And, with lyrics like “I forgot your birthday/I’m dressed in rags.”, this is hardly setting up to be a hardcore album at all. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Actually, the album is a bit of a pain to get through until the fifth song, “Someone’s Gonna Light You Up”, which is easily the best track on the entire album. It opens promisingly with an explosive burst of energy then delivers a rockier, heavier sound which is refreshingly reminiscent of the band’s earlier, better stuff. This heavier, cleaner sound feels like the right direction for the band to take but, alas, it’s one of the only songs on the album to go for that.

A fun, cool tune.

Instead of more of that, though, we’re made to listen through the likes of “It’s Your Night”, another poppy tune with an annoyingly catchy chorus. The beat in this one really gives off a weird boy band vibe, The Rasmus sounding less like The Rasmus here and more like The Backstreet Boys, with added whiny emo lyrics: “It’s a cruel, cruel world…”.

Urgh…

Take all the echoes out of that track, by the way, and it’s about a minute long.

The fourth song, “Save Me Once Again”, is, thankfully, a little better. It’s a slower love song with a welcome 80’s feel to it and an overall Muse-esque vibe. It’s cheesy, don’t get me wrong, but its melody is nice and its lyrics are bittersweet enough to work. Song number 6 is slow burn “End Of The Story”, another boy-band-like track. It’s slightly better than “It’s Your Night”, however, in that its melody and chorus aren’t actually too bad but it crumbles when you realise how repetitive it is. This one just won’t grab you.

“You Don’t See Me” is not bad, mostly thanks to its rockier start, its occasional pretty good parts and cool breaks. It’s not too memorable, unfortunately, but it’s entertaining and harmless enough. It’s followed by “Somewhere”, a light pop song which opens acoustically then devolves into an Avril Lavigne-type tune the minute the drums kick in. It’s a soapy, dull effort which, criminally, is over five minutes long. Good luck with that one…

Alright, two songs to go.

The Rasmus could still surprise us and save this album from a below-par rating.

Song number 9, the stupidly titled “Friends Don’t Do Like That”, has an OK melody but no real hook or chorus. It’s entertaining enough but pretty forgettable. Finally, the last song, which is simply called “Sky”, opens soft, gives us a decent build-up, then develops into something of a power ballad. Minus most of the power needed. Sadly, decent enough chorus-aside, this is another average track which should have tapped more into its darker side and delivered much more in order to truly stand out. As it stands, it’s not bad, but it’s nowhere near good enough to end this album on the high note it sorely needed.

That The Rasmus chose to name this particular album after themselves is a real shame seeing as it’s definitely one of their biggest misfires. Sure, there’s a couple of fair enough tracks on here, one of which is genuinely quite good, but it’s mostly a missed opportunity: the new electronic sound bogging down the whole album into commercial pop territory, never allowing the band to rock out or sound like themselves. I recommend going back to their three preceding albums and skipping this one altogether, frankly.

The Rasmus narrowly escape the dreaded 1 star rating this time thanks to a couple of worthy-enough tracks but they still end up with only 2 Happy goths.

Oh well…

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Voices – Album Review

Matchbook Romance

That Matchbook Romance only ever did two albums is really a shame. The rock band showing a lot of potential and versatility through both releases.

One of these albums was Voices.

Released in 2006, this was a darker, much less punk-sounding album and yet this felt like a worthy direction in which to take things for the band.

The main single to be released from the album was “Monsters”, which opens with a hypnotic little melody and a clapping rhythm before developing into a really fun song with a devilishly catchy chorus. It’s a brilliant tune and it’s actually surprising that it doesn’t open the album. That said, the first song of the album is more than worthy to start things off. “You Can Run, But We’ll Find You” is angsty but genuinely good with its beautifully dark, moody, memorable melody and its welcome crescendo, the song becoming much heavier near the end.

It’s my personal favourite.

Radio only single “Surrender” follows and starts off sounding a bit like a Muse song. Overall, it builds on the first song really well by being yet another dark, catchy and entertaining track with another nice melody to it. A faster tune follows, the awesomely titled “My Mannequin Can Dance”, and things get a tad more emo but, luckily, it’s a solid, fun song with a metal-style rhythm.

“Goody, Like Two Shoes” is even heavier and angstier but its melody doesn’t quite stand out as the others preceding it. The song actually has a weird jazzy feel to it, at times. “Say It Like You Mean It” follows “Monsters” and it’s a slower track which is almost a-capella save for a backing guitar. At the start, anyway. Then, a great build-up leads it to a cool, simple chorus and a grungier vibe altogether.

A more upbeat track is next, “Portrait”, and it’s one of the most memorable songs on the album. It’s upbeat but still has enough of an edge to it that it doesn’t become cheesy at all, it actually develops really well. As does its melodic follow-up “Singing Bridges (We All Fall)”, which is a slow burn but is haunted by creeping guitars throughout, as they get heavier and heavier as the song goes on. We’re back to a faster-paced, angstier, punkier effort after that, unexpectedly. “Fiction” is a welcome burst of energy before the album draws to a close.

The tenth song on Voices is “What A Sight”, another slow-burner which opens promisingly but, alas, the chorus ends up being a bit anti-climactic and the song ends up being much whinier than it probably should have been. “I Wish You Were Here” follows and it’s a soft, rather sad little song with a nice melody to it: it’s heartfelt and pretty. A more poetic way to end the album, not a bad thing at all.

There is a hidden bonus track on the album which starts off like 10 minutes after the end of “I Wish You Were Here” and it’s another whinier effort. A raw, acoustic tune which sounds like a demo and, although it’s not terrible, it’s something of a non-event.

That the album made it to Number 2 in the Billboard Top Independent Albums charts back in 2006 isn’t surprising: Voices is a surprisingly strong second album full of solid, well-written, hard-to-forget songs.

Despite a couple of average tracks near the end, Voices is, all in all, terrific stuff and definitely worth a listen. Plus it comes with a booklet full of hidden messages for you to decode, what more do you want?

There’s still hope that the band might work on something new soon so I think I’ll give the album 4 Happy Goths out of 5 for support.

Also, the album deserves it.

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Let Go – Album Review

Let Go

Long before Canada “graced” us with the pop sensation that is Justin Bieber, we got Avril Lavigne and her debut album Let Go, which was a big hit when it was released back in 2002.

Now, whether you like the artist or not, that particular album’s success was unavoidable back in the day. Several singles were released from it and many songs lured their way into many movies which came out around the same time from Wimbledon to The Medallion, Just Married (all timeless classics, I’m sure you’ve noticed) and more than one episode of Smallville, of course.

Having not listened to anything Lavigne has released since this particular album, except for that kinda annoying Alice In Wonderland song of hers, I thought I’d go back and set the record straight about Let Go: was it deserving of its success or just as irritating as many of us remember it to be?

“Losing Grip” is the opening song and, surprisingly, it’s somewhat entertaining and sufficiently rebellious (in a decidedly emo kind of way) to warrant a listen if you’re into that type of thing, though it stagnates a tad. It is followed by popular hit “Complicated” and, indeed, it sounds just as manufactured, whiny and annoyingly catchy as it always did. It’s basic teen pop fare but it does have an adorably naive charm to it. Besides, it prompted one of my favourite Weird Al Yankovic outings! Listening to the song now, what mostly stands out is its rather weird rhyming. Somehow Lavigne manages to rhyme “unannounced” with “somethin’ else” and “back” with “relax”…

I guess that’s an achievement in itself!

Another memorable single from the album is “Sk8er Boi”, which is just as obnoxious as its stupidly spelt title suggests. The song tells a story, a thoroughly petty story about some girl jealously and bitterly boasting about getting together with some guy. It’s completely juvenile and about a thousand times tamer than it thinks it is but hell, it’s catchy so it did ridiculously well at the time. As did ballad “I’m With You”, which may be corny as hell, whiny as hell and repetitive but which still works as a guilty pleasure. It’s got an admittedly nice melody and, although its lyrics come off as needy and weak, it’s cute enough to pull it off.

You’ve got a few acoustic efforts on the album, there to show Lavigne’s versatility and show off her singing chops, of course. One of them is “Mobile”, which opens kinda like “Sweet Home Alabama” and has a similar rhythm to it. Its verses aren’t too bad but that chorus really has no real lead up to it and it feels tacked-on, like it doesn’t belong to that specific song somehow. Another acoustic track is ballad “Tomorrow” which, apart from having pretty enough verses, mostly sounds like a soporific effort from The Corrs but much less vibrant.

“Unwanted” is the sixth song on the album and arguably has the best chorus of the bunch in that it could almost pass for rock. Of course the song needed to be less over-produced, much heavier and needed more anger than angst but, as a whole, it’s not too bad. It’s really in the second half of the album that we get some instantly forgettable tracks and some just plain not-very-good ones. “Things I’ll Never Say” is relatively inoffensive and has a nice enough melody but it’s a light, purely poppy effort. As for its follow-up “My World”, it tells another uninteresting story, this time about growing up in a small town. It’s whiny, juvenile and altogether lacks bite.

But that’s nothing compared to the eleventh track, “Nobody’s Fool”, where Lavigne attempts a rap. The delivery is expectedly clunky, the song’s subject is too tame and the lyrics are frankly awful. An inventive beat just about saves this one from being completely unlistenable. Speaking of tame subjects, the next song, “Too Much To Ask”, is yet another “I’m lonely” song where Lavigne complains that someone didn’t call her when they said they would. Well boo-friggin’-hoo! It’s altogether forgettable.

Finally, we have “Anything But Ordinary” and “Naked”, which closes the album. The former is a solid, if simplistic, pop track with a catchy chorus. It’s, again, emo-friendly, but it works and is, at least, memorable. “Naked” is also a more melancholic, moodier pop tune. It starts off being rather effective but suffers, like many songs on the album, from an anti-climactic chorus.

Let Go is an uneven album to say the least, parts of it are cheesy, blatantly commercial and completely forgettable while other parts of it are devilishly catchy and decent enough, for that genre, of course. It definitely doesn’t deserve all the praise it received, going straight to number 1 in some countries, receiving nominations at the Grammys and even winning several awards.

That said, I don’t… hate it.

Sure it’s irritating and weak here and there but, as a whole, you can kinda tell why it did so well. Lavigne making harmless, easily hummable, mostly fun songs with lyrics teens can relate to. I think the album could have done minus at least three of its songs and would have appealed to more people had its songs told more involving stories and had its lyrics and choruses been less naive but, as it stands, it’s very much of its time and designed for a particular audience.

For what it is, it works and, as far as teen pop is concerned, I’ve heard far, FAR worse.

That’s 3 Sk8er Bois out of 5 for Avril Lavigne’s opus.

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