Nightman Listens To – Deftones – Ohms (2020 Series)!

Greetings, Glancers! It’s another Metal album for us today, so hopefully that means a Yay from me given that I’m a filthy, unwashed Long Hair. I was never a Deftones fan. Accurately or not, I lumped them in with all of the Nu-Metal crap which appeared in the late 90s, even if they did seem less Emo and more Industrial, more Alt. Like a lot of the Nu Metal bands, Deftones had considerable screen time on the Kerrang, Scuzz, and MTV2s of the world, and they were an immediate ‘change the channel’ once that annoying song of theirs came on – you know the one – the one where the guy in the oversized cargo trousers is being all inconsiderate by walking on school desks. Does he even know how many germs are on the soles of his shoes? He could have stepped in doggie whoopsies! So there’s that song. I’m sure there were others, but I’ve forgotten them now. I don’t recall many requests for them back when I was DJing in Belfast’s Metal Clubs. That’s probably for the best as no doubt a bunch of sullen fans would have come stomping on to the dancefloor with their poo-smeared boots and proceeded to march all over the bar, the stools, the tables, and even the precious DJ area, saying ‘pootones, pootones, we are the pootone brigade’, or whatever that song went like.

If I’m honest, I assumed the band had split up or stopped putting stuff out, but that’s partly due to me not caring enough about them, and partly due to me being away from the Metal scene in recent years. It turns out they never went away and have been solidly pumping out albums since the mid-90s. Ohms is their 9th studio album, but I know nothing of it. Lets have a look at the artwork.

Well that’s a very sad face. It reminds me off The Gnome King from Return To Oz, except instead of being made of rocks his face is eternally attached to tartan; you would be sad too if you had to spend your days looking up a Scotsman’s kilt all day in the hope (despair) of catching a dribble of haggis juice seeping out. It also looks a bit like that guy from Alien Sex Fiend’s Now I’m Feeling Zombified video. This guy:

Alien Sex Fiend - Now I'm Feeling Zombified (video) - YouTube

Lets hope it doesn’t sound like it looks – at least from the Sex Fiend perspective. I don’t have any other comments on the artwork, and I don’t know how it compares with previous album covers. It’s a ten track, 46 minute album, which is generally the sweet spot for album length. By the time you begin to read the next paragraph I will have listened to the thing multiple times. Lets do this.

Ohms doesn’t live up to its opening 50 seconds or so. Listening to the album reminded me of several reasons for my initial dismissal of Deftones, reasons I’d forgotten over time. But I’m trying to balance objectivity against my personal feelings with these posts, so I don’t think I need to spend much time dredging up my dislike for a genre or style or approach, though admittedly I will need to resort to such comments to explaining my position at certain points. I can begin with the central positives I recognise in Ohms. Firstly, it’s clear that Deftones fans love this album and consider it, maybe with surprise, to be one of their best. I could dismiss a percentage of this praise as being part and parcel of the bias all music fans feel towards whatever garbage their favourite band pumps out, but the majority of this praise seems to be genuine and coming from a place of objective understanding. The band has been around for ages, has been through hardships, but has come out with a fan-pleasing album deep into their career. I won’t argue against that – I can say it’s not really an album for me, but I can recognise it as something which the fans it was made for will love.

On a technical level, it’s as good an album as I’ve heard so far in this 2020 journey. Admittedly I don’t know an ounce about music Production, but it’s a great sounding album. Clear mix, especially with headphones, and the blend of distortion on everything from the vocals to the guitars is neatly balanced alongside the cleaner moments. Metal does have a habit, almost by its nature, of sounding abrasive, harsh, and not all that pleasant on the ears. But that should be part of the style, not of the production. We’ve come leaps and bounds since the early underground days of Metal where recordings were done on the cheap, producers didn’t know what they were doing or bands couldn’t afford someone who did. The tech has improved, the people behind the wheel have perhaps grown up as fans of this type of music or a greater awareness of how to record it and capture the aggression and abrasion without compromising on sonic quality.

Deftones don’t seem to be, in my limited experience, the most technically gifted writers or performers. They do what they need to to get their point and music across, and within this sub-genre there isn’t much scope for outlandish time signatures, pioneering riffs, or elaborate instrumentation. They crunch out powerful beats and chords to serve their short and angry mantras. I don’t always need a band to go over and above this level for them to appeal to me – it helps especially in this genre – but I do need to feel a deeper connection to the music on an emotional, melodic, or intellectual level. This is where Deftones, and this album lose me.

I found this a fairly weak, uneventful album in melodic terms. It’s an album of moments with most songs having one melodic moment I could hold on to. Of those few moments, lets say 80% of them stuck with me so that I remembered them on the next listen, and of those 80% maybe 50% stuck with me after I’d stopped listening. If I find myself recalling or humming a melody at some random point during the day, I’ll want to return to it and to listen to the song again. That tugging almost always leads me to a deeper relationship with other songs. With Ohms that relationship never transpired. It’s a shame, because the throbbing, shadow-laden promise of the Twin Peaks inspired intro synth of Genesis made me hopeful that I’d been unfair to Deftones all this time. That synth returns at various inspired points through the album, namely in the outro to Pompeji and into This Link Is Dead. But for every good moment I enjoy, there’s the rest of the song swallowing up that positivity in a choking swirl of tuneless angst.

I say tuneless because it’s sadly true. It didn’t take long – the second song on my first listen in fact – before I remembered that I always felt the vocalist was weak. I still do; Chino isn’t a great singer by any definition, falling on the same flattened ends to words, frequently drifting out of tune whether by design or by mistake. His wafting softer moments are the slurred whispers of a sullen stoner, his screaming moments static and vaporous, and the whole thing is so heavily filtered as to wrench most of the humanity from every utterance. Vocals which sound like they are being squawked through a megaphone sound like the desperate laughable mewlings of an embittered Presbyterian protesting abortion outside a Primary School.

The whiny nature of the vocals drips over to the lyrics, much of what is said already covered by every weeping goth over the past forty years, every teenager threatened with curfew over the last hundred years. I’m being a little harsh because I think there are fine ideas behind some of the songs, but little clarity or insight or poetry or personality, Genesis seemingly concerned with a middle ground awakening and the awareness that ‘both sides’, whether turd or douche, can be blindly followed. Every lyric seems to go out of its way to say nothing about something, and as such I lost any real emotional or intellectual connection.

Returning to what I mentioned about moments – the album opening is cool. I would have loved that to have remained an instrumental. Keep that ominous waspish hum and build upon it as its own thing, then have the rest of Genesis as your second track, because as it stands the song falls apart as soon as the down-tuned guitars and vocals start. I’m a Metal fan and I like my Metal to be punishing – hard, fast, distorted, liable to upset the normies, so that makes what I’m about to say a little contrary; One of the things I don’t like about Metal is the expectation that must always be hard, fast, punishing. That’s a hallmark of the genre, but it’s not the genre. Have the balls to write a soft, slow, gentle song. Have the balls to be sweet instead of angry. Don’t feel like you have to drop some crushing riff in an otherwise soothing or melodic song because the genre calls for it. The song should call for whatever the song requires. By all means you can merge light and dark, soft and heavy – look at Metallica’s Battery or One as popular successful examples. This may say more about me as just one guy and there will be millions of fans who want it rough and loud all day every day. At the end of the day, as a Metal fan I don’t necessarily care about genre. I just want good music – emotional, creative, played with feeling and desire, which speaks to the artist and by proxy speaks to me – the genre the song is delivered in is of secondary importance.

Still, I admit most of the songs have a groove, have plenty for existing fans to get behind. While rarely adventurous, the songs are rarely static. There is a coherence to the album which mostly avoids feeling samey and I was able to distinguish between the songs more easily than other albums, Metal or otherwise. Error has an almost cool chorus, let down by fairly awful vocals, Ceremony has some catchy ooh-ooh moments, and Urantia is another example of a perfectly good intro turning into something less good. By the time The Spell Of Mathematics rolls around the album is beginning to wear a little thin, but then it closes with one of the most interesting sections of the album, the finger-clicking faded out countdown to something unspeakable.

One feeling I couldn’t shake as I listened to the album was the band’s similarity to one of my favourite bands. My Vitriol were (are?) a British band who had a brief moment of success around the turn of the century and one of their trademarks was filtered spacey vocals with occasional shrieking outbursts, but the chorus-drenched Line 6 guitar tone they employed is front and present in Ohms. My Vitriol was not a Metal band, but their punches were more effective to me than anything here, their emotion more potent, their chorus bigger and more interesting. My Vitriol used a lot of distortion in an ambient and impactful way, while hear it feels like a barrage of fuzz without distinction. Is Deftones a less interesting, more abrasive My Vitriol?

It’s not an album for me and Deftones likely isn’t a band for me. As mentioned earlier, that’s fine. The people predisposed to enjoy this will enjoy this and it’s a solid enough album for people curious about the band to be drawn in. There will always be new comers who will discover this thanks to the band’s prior success, and I have no doubt that most will think this is a great album. I’m in the minority as a dissenting voice but that doesn’t concern me. In this journey I wanted to listen to a variety of the most highly rated albums of 2020 and hopefully find something new to love. This isn’t it, but it may be for someone else.

ALBUM SCORE

Sales: 3. Based on what I can tell, the album seems to have sold fairly well for this band at this moment in time. Doesn’t compare to their peak, but what does these days?

Chart: 3. It topped the US Hard Rock chart and the UK equivalent, it topped the charts in Croatia… top 5 in Australia, UK and US regular charts. Reasonable enough, but as we know it doesn’t take much to reach the top of the charts nowadays.

Critical: 4. Almost, but not quite a 5 score for me. Mostly acclaim with the album topping several Metal oriented publications best of lists for the year and with very positive reviews across the board. Some reviews were less forthcoming with the praise, noting the band is simply providing more of the same – lets see how it stands the test of time.

Originality: 3. A 3 is the absolute peak here. I’m tempted by a 2 because I didn’t feel there was anything new here, but lets give them the benefit of my doubt.

Influence: 2. I’m happy to go 2 here. Due to the lack of originality or need for it, I can’t see this album going on to influence other acts, certainly not over and above anything else Deftones has done. It’s always hard to say with a new album unless it’s immediately revolutionary, though the album’s acclaim and popularity could well draw new fans and influence new kids to pick up a guitar. 

Musical Ability: 3. As mentioned in the review, they guys don’t show off much in the way of technical chops, but this doesn’t seem to get in the way of crafting enjoyable songs for fans. The vocals almost have me pulling this down to a 2. 

Lyrics: 3. I could go with a 2 here, but I’m going to assume the lyrics will mean more to others than they do to me, and I fully admit to being a bit of a lyrics snob. It’s the sort of angry angsty fluff I might have enjoyed when I was a child, but even as a child I had a more discerning eye for a unique turn of phrase.

Melody: 2: I can’t keep handing out threes, so I find I’m switching between 2s and 3s. I could go 3 for melody but lets go with 2. Again, melody is subjective in terms of your enjoyment. I didn’t get much enjoyment from this, from the melodies. There are some catchy moments, nothing in the way of interest or innovation, and the vocals mean that even the best hooks wavered out of tune.

Emotion: 3. There’s a lot of shouting. I’ve read enough about the band now to know a little of their history and their tragedies. I’m happy to give a 3 here as I may not feel the emotions which the long term fan would. 

Lastibility: 3. I’m not going to listen to it today – the title track is probably the best song and dispenses with a lot of the crap I don’t enjoy within the band, so I could see myself listening to that again. I wouldn’t walk out of the room if any song from the album came on. So it has to be a positive score. Again, the Deftones fans will surely listen to this for years and ages to come, but I’m not sure it has any relevance beyond that. 

Vocals: 2. Yeah… not great. Regardless of whether the vocals deliberately drop out of tune for effect or because the band are deaf, it doesn’t make for a pleasant listen. I’m sure people will argue, people always do, but from clean to harsh I’ve heard a thousand better. 

Coherence: 3. Sure, it sticks together. The synth moments repeat every so often. The emotional and musical aspects don’t differ wildly. It all makes sense. 

Mood: 3. Nothing exciting here. It evoked nothing in me, I don’t think I would hit the pit if I heard this in a club, even after a few pints. But it didn’t have me skipping tracks or piss me off.

Production: 4. One of the better aspects of the album.

Effort: 3. I’m sure it took as much effort as any other album does these days, but an extra point for being to create a fan favourite release this deep into their career. 

Relationship: 2. It doesn’t mean much to me and didn’t do much to convert me from my previous state of apathy. I can listen if it’s on, but I wont seek it out or anything else by the band.

Genre Relation: 3. It sounds like other Deftones music. It sounds like other Deftones-esque music.

Authenticity: 4. I’d tend to go 3 with this, but based on how much love the long-time fans have for the album it looks like it’s exactly what the fans hoped for in their wildest dreams.

Personal: 3. If this were a 10 point scale, I’d go with a 5 out of 10. But lets stick with a 3. I have no great feelings either way towards it, but at least I’m a little more educated about the band if they come up in conversation.

Miscellaneous: 3. Interesting enough artwork, interesting story in how the band have come back from tragedy.

Total: 60/100

One of our lowest scores so far, but still solidly in the above average section. Again, I’m content being in the minority with this one. Deftones don’t do it for me, but they’ve given what appears to be one of their best albums to the fans who have followed them since the 90s, so ignore me and go listen to it if it’s your jam. Let us know your thoughts on Ohms in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – Code Orange – Underneath (2020 Series)!

Greetings, Glancers! Another highly rated album from 2020 to cover today, and another one I have absolutely zero knowledge of. In fact, before writing this introduction I had to check on my original 2020 post to see which publication listed this album as one of their favourites. It was Kerrang, so this must be a Metal album. At the very least an album with guitars, given that Kerrang goes after all sorts these days. That’s all I know, but maybe the artwork will tell me something.

It’s a fleshy, cyborg, alien thing? It’s a bit like if Iron Maiden’s Eddie were a nerd, but was kidnapped by a Cenobite and then placed in one of Jigsaw’s traps. It doesn’t tell me much. Is it meant to be a violent, brutal image so the album will be violent and brutal? For any new readers – I write my intro before I’ve heard a single note of the album, but by the time we jump to the next paragraph I will have listened to the whole thing multiple times. Lets get to it.

You know, that image is a fairly accurate representation of the music – it’s the sort of music a demented AI might make if the only data it had to go on was Nursery Rhymes and 2010s Hardcore Metal. On one hand it’s fairly straight screamy shouty metal – brutal vocals song by boys who are angry because mommy wouldn’t let them ‘go out with hair like that’, thunderous drumming, and crushing riffs – but on the other hand you have an album deliberately broken with audio glitches and defects. The music will cut out without warning or begin to judder and skip like a dust ridden CD, and many of riffs have been distorted to sound like they have been heavily processed through multiple rusty filters and failing laptops. It’s cool, but the effect doesn’t have the same impact on multiple listens or by the time the final track comes around. It’s probably the most notable aspect of the album and what distinguishes this from the thousands of other Hardcore albums out there, which are generally very samey. It is a cool effect, it is overdone, but at least they mix up those effects with a variety and intensity that it does catch you off guard and create a sort of unique vibe. Of course, this glitching and trickery is not exactly original – The Music’s debut way back in 2002 had plenty of these stoppy starty shenanigans – but I don’t know how regularly it has been used in Metal. I wonder if these guys are fans of The Music – there’s a moment in Autumn And Carbine which is suspiciously reminiscent of the electro beats used in The Music’s third album. That seems highly unlikely.

I must admit to laughing and enjoying the opening track, because all the deliberately off-putting sound, screeches, and distortion is exactly the sort of ‘experimental music’ I was making more than 10 years ago. I have hundreds (literally) of ‘songs’ like this and when I have time I add the odd one to Youtube to terrify people. That intro builds nicely – I like a long instrumental intro to build anticipation and set tone and mood, but when this happens on an especially good intro I’m internally praying ‘don’t ruin it with the vocals don’t ruin it with the vocals’. In general I’m not a fan of Hardcore vocals because they crush the individuality of the voice and enforce limitations. I can take them in short bursts but this is the genre we’re in so it should be expected and evaluated as such. The album isn’t all shouts and screams – there are minor instances of clean female vocals and the songs which deftly balance the harsh with the clean, the light with the dark, such as Sulfur Surrounding are the most successful at sticking in my memory.

That’s the greatest quandary I have with this genre and the album. Hardcore, and plenty of other metal sub genres have a lack of melody and variety; little variety of emotion, little to no variety in vocal melody, and it’s all about as many downtuned basic riffs and how much shouty shouting you can shout. If you like Hardcore, you should like this. If you’re a purist though, you might be put off b the glitches, by the synth moments, by the cleaner sections because this album does strive for variety. It employs Hardcore as its foundation, but wants to build something more monstrous and remarkable. I don’t speak from any position of experience or authority but based on the rave reviews from those in the know, the band succeeded in this respect. This album does have variety – there are memorable vocal melodies (which may take time to sink in) and there is emotional variety (at least in the grey areas between annoyed, angry, and really pissed off). Songs such as The Easy Way and Sulfur Surrounding build upon this by eschewing the tried and tested and boring hardcore route of riff, shout, other shout, solo, shout end, by adding musical and structural elements not typically heard.

Still, as someone mostly unfamiliar with this sub-genre and with no real desire to learn about it or care (it’s all a bit… skinhead, you know), I could appreciate its brutality and experimentation and can gladly chill to any of the songs while driving. A few songs would be enough for me before I’d want to move on to something else – I get enough futile tantrums at home without needing it in my music too. A handful of the better blended songs I can stick on my playlist but the whole thing isn’t one I think I’ll return to. I can marvel at the production and applaud the musical ability and desire to drag the genre into new territory, but the songwriting in itself feels somewhat flat outside of the glitches.  Like many of the albums I have already reviewed from 2020 and likely those I haven’t got to yet – this isn’t for me so I’ll leave it to the people who it was designed for. I have no doubt they’ll love it.

Album Score

Sales: 3. Seems to have done okay, at least within a genre which doesn’t really sell anymore. Seems to be theit highest selling album – but we’re talking 10s of thousands here. I could go 2 here, but lets give them some props.

Chart: 2. A hardcore album isn’t really designed to sell outside its core audience or set the charts alight. It made it onto the top 200 in US. Not as high as their debut I believe, but times have changed.

Critical: 5. Go down to a 4 if you want to include non-Metal publications, but praise has been flawless across the board in Metal magazines and sites.

Originality: 3. Normally a Hardcore album is going to get a 1 or a 2 from me here. This strives for me and generally does more. Enough for a 3 at least.

Influence: 3. I would hope that this will spur other young bands within this genre and the genres less prone to experimentation and variety to take the lead. It’s not going to influence on a wider scale so I could see a 2 or even a 1 here if you’re very harsh. Definitely don’t see this as higher than 3.

Musical Ability: 3. They can play, but we’re talking Metal here. If you can’t better than almost every other genre, you’re not going to get as high as a 3. I expect each person to be an expert in their craft. The glitches are more a case of production and ideas than musical ability – outside of that I didn’t feel enough to hit a 4.

Lyrics: 3. Naturally I had to Google the lyrics to see what they’re all about. There are bits and bobs related to changing and adapting to the modern world which fits with the music. Aside from that, all the usual Metal topics stated plainly without much poetry or invention – control, violence, anger, the usual.

Melody: 2: Only a handful of songs standout in this respect – I’ve been lenient so far in some of my scoring but if you force me up to a 3 here, I can drop Lyrics to a 2. Most of the songs don’t differ in the vocal melodies aside from the few notable ones, and even those aren’t the catchiest in the world. I won’t grumble if you go 3 here but anything higher seems like bias.

Emotion: 3. Genres like this aren’t the most subtle or nuanced in terms of emotion – there’s only so much range of emotion you can convey when your vocals are at 11 the entire time. It comes down to how much importance you place on expectation – if you expect and want anger, volume, shouting, then you can mark higher. If you are looking for a more balanced range of emotions across a spread of songs, then you mark lower. I’ll go average considering the genre. 

Lastibility: 3. While time will tell whether this was a game-changer, it seems like it has made enough impact based on its reviews to sustain itself at least until their next album drops. Metal fans are devout to their group or sub genre, and those outside the group will complain or move on to the next thing. Not enough information to say for sure, but a 3 seems reasonable. 

Vocals: 3. I’m no judge on hardcore vocals and what is good versus bad versus whatever. What I do know is that I can only take so much of it, not because it’s loud or shouty, but because it’s repetitive and dull and lacks character. Some songs offer mainly clean vocals, some songs offer additional vocals, and some songs blend clean and harsh. I didn’t have any issue with the quality of any of the vocals, more that they were mostly generic. 

Coherence: 4. I’m happy going high on this category because the band seemed committed to their idea for their sound, and did everything possible to make a coherent product. The glitches and electronic (for lack of a better term) sound carries through to the end.

Mood: 3. I could agree with an argument for a 4 here as the coherence lifts the mood, but given the lack of emotion and feeling I generally get from this type of music I’m not confident that any mood the band is trying to communicate would not translate to me.

Production: 4. Another strength, everything is clear and the various components are nuanced in the way that the emotions are not. Most notable aspects being the glitches and future shock soundscapes which are handled with both taste and bluster. 

Effort: 3. I always dread scoring this category because effort is sacred and sacrosanct. It feels disingenuous to score low when artists, especially in these genres, put their heart, soul, blood, sweat, and tears into their creation. I have no doubt the band did everything they could to write, record, and produce this album – but so does every other band if they’re serious about their craft. I don’t see or I’m not aware of anything over and above what other bands do. 

Relationship: 2. When I was younger maybe I would have felt different, but even when I was younger and more accepting of most Metal subgenres such as this were at an arm’s length. I love melody, and emotion, and shades of colour. I also love being heavy and angry and skilful and fast, but there are tonnes of other albums and artists who do those things while also speaking to me on a personal level. 

Genre Relation: 3. Sure… it sounds like most other albums in this genre that I’ve heard. But it also goes further and tries more. Then again, not my area of expertise. 

Authenticity: 4. Metal artists often live or die based on how authentic they are. If your fanbase feels you’ve sold out or moved to far away from what drew them to you, they’ll bugger off and let you know. Again, I don’t know much about it but it seems authentic, committed, and they believe in what they’re doing. 

Personal: 3. I’m honestly closer to a 2 because I know I’ll never listen to it again, but I also know it’s a better album than what a 2 would suggest. This score is all about your personal feelings so you can put all of you bias into this score – if an album sells in the millions, tops the charts, gets rave reviews, but it’s Country and you hate it – give it a 5 in those other categories but give it a 1 here. This is a low 3 for me, but the belief and the novelty of the glitching is enough to stop it dropping to a 2.

Miscellaneous: 2. I could go 3 here, but there’s not enough in the artwork or the surrounding info of the album to really nail down that score. 

Total: 61/100

That’s a lower score than most I’ve reviewed so far – but remember it’s only a 7 point difference between Ungodly Hours which is an album I did enjoy much more on a personal level. It may take something special to break that 70 mark!

Nightman Listens To – Chloe X Halle – Ungodly Hour (2020 Series)!

Greetings, Glancers! For any fans of this series or those who want to know my thoughts on 2020’s best releases, I apologise for the lack of posts so far. In the real world family and work have taken priority, while in the Blogging world my Marillion posts have been my most frequent commitment. I’ve no idea how many Marillion albums are left, but given the last album I covered was released in 1998, we’re surely closer to the end than the beginning – Watch my face drop as I find out Marillion went on to release 1 album every year since 1999.

But we’re not here to talk about Marillion, for a change. We’re here to talk about Chloe X Halle. I have no idea what that is or what that means or even how to say it. Is it literally ‘Chloe ex Halle’, is it ‘Chloe cross Halle’, ‘Chloe times Halle, Chloe and Halle’ etc. And how do you pronounce ‘Halle’? Is it ‘hally’ or ‘Halley’, or ‘Haley’ or is it meant to rhyme with Chloe? Does it matter? Is it a band, is it one vocalist, is it two vocalists? I don’t know and I don’t believe I’d even heard whatever this is mentioned anywhere before putting together this list, not in YouTube comments, not in passing, not anywhere. Perhaps the album cover will give me an idea.

Album Review: Ungodly Hour by Chloe x Halle Right, we have two women, with two arses (one each), and two sets of wings which I assume are supposed to look sleek and heavenly, but kind of look like swimming pool inflatables. Are these the singers, or is this just some random image by a rock band? Lets go with these being the singers, which would fit with the name. Angels, Ungodly, are we going for lots of religious iconography and ideas? Oh Lordy, it’s not a Christian music album is it? The cover seems too sexy for that, but then every dick and their associated arse and cleavage identify as Christian these days, so who the hell knows. I would prefer garbage pop over Christian garbage. Actually, as long as the music is good I probably won’t care what the genre is, as long as they’re not trying to force some Creationist agenda down my gullet. I get enough of that as it is, thankee-sai.

Lets get on with it. I’m not sure what I was expecting from this given my complete lack of knowledge, but I was pleasantly surprised. In fact, it’s my favourite of all of the 2020 albums I’ve listened to as part of this journey so far. For anyone not aware, it’s a Pop R’n’B album entrenched in the past as much as the present. There’s a retro 90s, early Noughties feel, a pre-Destiny’s Child vibe calling up the likes of TLC… All Saints…. it’s not my area of expertise. Mostly I imagined it as an X-Rated version of Sister Sister. While it is undoubtedly a modern Pop album, meaning it suffers from many of the main negative trappings of current Pop (weak and inconsequential drum sounds, surface simplicity, copy paste pronunciation, slightly compressed sound, overly digital), there is enough of the Disco influenced late era Motown to keep me happy. While I do have issues, on the whole I could overlook those thanks to the album’s strengths – melody and authenticity. It feels like the girls love music; listening, making, and performing it. You can hear their influences. There are genuine hooks. They have genuine voices and don’t rely heavily on autotune to make them sound good or use it as a stylistic choice, at least until we get to the lowlight of the album – Catching Up.

The album eased me in and allowed me to relax into the journey without worrying that I was going to hate the entire experience. The appropriately named Intro sets up the album’s qualities – the vocal melodies and harmonies – and the angelic, subtly epic tone is a world away from most of the manufactured junk I hear whenever I dip in and out of the Top 40. Those qualities lead directly in to Forgive Me, the first of many supremely infectious songs which is let down by some vocal choices more to do with my preferences than any real show or lack of skill. This, the title track, Baby Girl and others feel like they could be Club or Radio hits and crucially also work as something to chill to at home.

The album manages to subvert one of the biggest issues which has plagued modern pop for at least a decade, and which has plagued Dance music since Day One – those songs are designed purely for a huge audio system and to be danced to in a group setting with no care given for those of us who actually want to appreciate the thing on our own, to appreciate the thing as a piece of art. Having not seen any videos or live performances by the pair, I did have difficulty distinguishing between the two vocal parts. I’m not as close to their individual voices. That doesn’t mean the girls sound the same – their voices obviously work wonderfully together and in certain songs it is clear when one takes over from the other – I Wonder What She Thinks Of Me being a great example of them seemingly trying to one-up each other. I don’t know enough to say that x part was Chloe and y part was Halle. I don’t even know if those are their real names. Even with the vocal quality, the girls add in their own humour and twists – it’s one thing to sing badly because you can’t do better, or to use Autotune because, well because everyone else does, but it’s a different class to write a song called Tipsy, a song about getting drunk and murdering your boyfriend, and sound like you’re drunk while singing it. It’s not exactly big or unique, but it is funny and a sign of the creative balls the girls have.

Continuing with the creativity on display, I did love the little transitions between many of the tracks – seamless and give the album the impression of a journey through the mind (or minds) of these women as they move from relationship to relationship via guilt, forgiveness, jealousy, warnings, joy, and a fair old dose of the horn (as we say over here). This isn’t a Concept album, but there are concepts tying the ends together, and while there are clear and potent messages approaching Feminism, it’s not some man-hating tome or purely a show of solidarity for women. The attacks on men are tongue in cheek, even if there is genuine vitriol, but they poke fun at themselves and admit their own flaws in equal measure. It’s an album not afraid to say that we’re all messy, we’re all beautiful, and we’re all capable of fucking up. No matter if the song is about keying someone’s car or receiving dick pics from some player, it’s all done with humour not usually heard in the Top 40. While other artists go all in on the graphic detail in their attempts to be shocking or amusing (cough cough Minaj), those flat attempts at bravado are laughable only because they’re so bad. Chloe X Halle strike the right balance between truth and humour.

We do need to talk about Catch Up. As mentioned, it’s the low point of the album. It’s the stock .feat song of the album. Some bloke, who I won’t dignify by finding out his name and adding it here, guest performs on the song and it’s the usual heavily autotuned, incredibly whiney vocal. There must be a hell of a lot of people out there who like this type of singer, this type of accent, but I just don’t get it. The girls are not entirely immune from odd decisions – while some of the accents and affectations pay off, they are less successful in the likes of royl. Those moments are few and far between and a misstep like Catch Up (and even that would be a good song without the shitty vocals) sounds like a completely different artist from the one who crafted the pop excellence of Don’t Make It Harder On Me and Wonder What She Thinks Of Me. Those two tracks in particular I will happily stick on my personal playlist – the pure Motown joy of the former, complete with funky bass and jangling guitars, and the exquisite emotional anguish of the latter.

Returning to the lyrics – often the most blatant bane of modern Pop – it’s the humour, emotion, and authenticity which allows what are not the most poetic or fierce rhymes to stand out. Like the majority of your Top 40, where almost every song is about love (or ostensibly, sex), the girls explore what it’s like to be a young woman keeping your head above water amidst the torrential storms of modern romance. Baby Girl is an anthem for girls everywhere expected to live up to society’s expectations and sacrificing their spirit simply to survive in a world beyond their control, while Royl could be a lyrical extension which pleads for the listener, boy or girl, to ‘live tonight’. It wouldn’t be a Pop album without the junk party lyrics about turning up late with a crew, and both ‘boo’ and ‘bae’ used liberally, and annoyingly. We’ve reached the point (we reached it long ago) in Pop that lyrics are basically meaningless, certainly artless, so while I don’t feel the need to comment much on them, these are at least more honest, less shitty, than what I typically hear sludging out of iTunes.

This is the first album in my list of Best 2020 albums that I will listen to again beyond the publishing of this post. While I didn’t know what I was getting into, I had an inkling it would be some overhyped standard chart balls, but the triple threat strengths of the vocals, melodies, and conviction was enough to shred any of the bias I may normally have against this sort of music. It’s enough to put the girls on my radar and to make me want to check out anything else they’ve done and will do in the future.

Album Score

Sales: 3. I would have assumed this one set the charts and sales alight, but that doesn’t seem to have been the case. It sold better than their debut, but it warranted a quick re-release. Sometimes that’s a positive because the album or a single did so well so it raises awareness of the thing again, or it can be a negative to try to scrape out a few additional sales due to underperforming. I would go a 2 here, but a few of the singles performed well enough to push me into giving a 3.

Chart: 2. It did well enough upon release, in the US at least, but the fact that it didn’t reach the Top 10, and didn’t even reach the Top 70 in the UK, means we have to mark this down. You can’t go higher than a 3 with this, but by all accounts this was not a chart hit.

Critical: 4. I might allow a 5 here, but I don’t think you can go lower than a 4. The album received three Grammy nominations (didn’t win) and appeared in many Best Of Year lists, including a few notable Number 1 finishes. For me it doesn’t quite reach the heights of a five, but I understand if you think it does.

Originality: 3. Not my wheelhouse but it felt fresh enough to me, different enough from what I normally hear in the Top 40. Nothing startling in the music or lyrics or production, but sometimes simply getting back to basics and nailing your melody and sense of self makes you stand out from the so called trend setters and followers. A flat three for me.

Influence: 3. I’m torn between a 2 and a 3 here. I don’t think it was a big enough success that others will jump on the bandwagon and say ‘hey, maybe not singing like a twat and not singing about bullshit is a good idea’. I hold out hope that the critical success of the album, and its quality, might rub off on some younger listeners instead of the wide array of crap out there. It’s a 2 or a 3, but lets be positive.

Musical Ability: 3. A tricky one because I don’t believe the girls actually play any instruments or display any traditional musical ability. Their melody and vocals we can discount because they have their own section and score. Any pop album, even as mass produced and digital as they are now, will be lifted up by a team of musicians. Those guys do their job adequately here, without standing out or delivering any wow moments.

Lyrics: 3. It’s better than your standard pop, but your standard pop is at best a 2 in this category.

Melody: 4. I thought there would have been a 4 before this category, but nope. This is one of the hallmarks of the album, and of the things I respect most in music. Even ignoring how bad their contemporaries are in this category, it’s a showcase of how to do melody right.

Emotion: 4. Another highlight, even while only a small number of songs hit any real heights. Elsewhere those heights are not needed and the emotion is often bubbling under the surface, visibly, audibly. In addition, the enjoyment of singing and of music comes across.

Lastibility: 3. I worry that this won’t have any real staying power because it wasn’t a hit. Time will tell if its quality will see it outlast the more immediate success of its contemporaries. It could be a 2, but the fact that I’ll continue to listen to it over and above and beyond those contemporaries is enough to earn a 3.

Vocals: 4. A few dubious decisions and guests aside, this is a great vocal effort. Shedding those and we could be talking a 5. It’s not the vocals on their own, but the dual attack, the expression, the harmonies, and the wit creatively employed.

Coherence: 4. It feels like a journey or a day in the life. Thematically and musically it ties together, and plenty of the songs bleed into one another due to

Mood: 3. I’m tempted to give a 4 here, based on what I’ve already mentioned about the album feeling like a collection of club hits and a journey through someone’s mind. I’m not sure it quite nails enough of either mood or tone to earn a 4 from me, so I’m going with a 3. 

Production: 4. I was going to go 3 here, but I should remove as much of my own bias as possible. While I don’t personally like some of the choices, arrangement, and sounds used, there is no doubt that the producers are at the top of their game, everything is levelled well, and it does strike that balance between home listening at blasting out of a club’s sound system. 

Effort: 4. Without knowing in detail the story behind the writing and recording of the album it is difficult to accurately score this one. What seems to be true is that the girls raised their game from their debut – often the most difficult task for an artist is to improve upon their first album and overcome any hype it may have had. It seems like while their original album wasn’t huge, this has built upon its foundations. It is a short album, sometimes that hints at a lack of ideas or effort, but I don’t believe that is the case here.

Relationship: 3. As a thirty something married white bloke from Northern Ireland whose partying days are over, and were never something I cared much for anyway, I’m not exactly who this album is designed for. I don’t need to worry about most of the issues raised in the album and it’s not a sub genre of Pop I’ve ever been invested in. Still, the music made me interested in the artist and what they were talking about – at least to the point that I’m curious to hear their debut. 

Genre Relation: 3. I’m not best placed to answer this given the complete lack of knowledge I have around this sort of music. In the wider genre of ‘Whatever Is On The Charts’ it certainly relates in terms of style, tone, and theme and with a lot of the same positives and negatives I ascribe to the type of music. Whether it’s better or worse, whether it is a game-changer I don’t know. I know I liked it more than most crap in the charts.

Authenticity: 4. The overall impression I had from the album – the voices, the lyrics, the production, was of a home-grown talent rather than something manufactured and showered with money. The people involved have a love of music past and present, and that shone through.

Personal: 4. I could go a 3 here, but I think that would be playing into my bias too much. I enjoyed this quite a lot, and it surprised me (by not being shit). Given the fact that I wasn’t expecting much, that 90% of it didn’t annoy me, and that I’ve been humming many of the songs to myself over the past few weeks… I think it deserves a Personal score of 4.

Miscellaneous: 3. Not much to say – music videos are fine, artwork is fine, girls seem cool. A standard positive 3. 

Total: 68/100

think that’s the highest score so far in my 2020 albums. Not by much, mind you. This is a decent score – thinking how difficult it would be to get a 5 in any of the categories. I’m hoping we’ll get one or two albums passing the 70 mark but I doubt we’ll get anything in the 80s. I care less about the score than my feelings about the album and how many of the songs I plan on listening to after publishing this post. Let us know in the comments what you think of Ungodly Hours!

Nightman Listens To – Biffy Clyro – A Celebration Of Endings (2020 Series)!

A Celebration of Endings Cover.jpg

Greetings, Glancers! My first adventure into 2020’s offerings went about as well as expected – TL:DR version – I am old and I don’t understand modern pop music, but that’s okay because it’s factually crap, but that’s also okay because it’s not meant for me. Metal though…. I’ve lost my way with modern Metal in recent years. I keep track of my favourite new bands, I still follow the latest releases by the bosses of the genre, but I don’t go out of my way to listen to new stuff as much as I did when I was DJing. Apparently Biffy Clyro are still going, so I guess that’s good? I was never a big fan but I knew some of their songs and I saw them live the odd time. I had a friend who really loved them when they first arrived on the scene, but he has since found The Lord and I don’t know if he entertains such musical diversions any more. Sad.

North Of No South – jazzy intro. Biffy Clyro do that so many metal bands from the Noughties do that I’ve never enjoyed – having a loud, riff heavy intro, then suddenly sucking all of the sound and power out for a tame verse. I can’t state clearly why this is something I don’t like – I enjoy when bands do the quite verse loud chorus bit in previous eras, but there’s something about the Noughties approach or tone that irks me.

The Biffy Clyro singer (lets just call him ‘Mr Biffo’) has a very affected North American accent – another thing which gets on my goat. Maybe there’s a correlation between the natural Scottish accent and how it translates while singing. I’m quite picky about accents while singing – I don’t enjoy the forced clipped Hard Rs which non-US singers adopt to apparently make them sound more North American – yet I don’t mind it as much when actual American singers sing in this style. I also can’t stand English singers singing in what may be their natural regional accent – possibly it’s the fact that I’m not a fan of those accents regardless of them being spoken or sung, or possibly I prefer my vocalists to sing in a more plain, classical sense? There’s some truth in both, but given I enjoy singers with unusual singing accents and styles – natural (Anneke Van Giersbergen, James Dean Bradfield, Natalie Imbruglia) or affected (Tori Amos, Kate Bush, Joni Mitchell) I would put less stock in the latter being true. Mr Biffo does sound Scottish later in the album – certain words, vowels, phrases stand out.

Both first tracks are very bouncy and melodic, each has a variety of hooks which I can see people loving. The second track is a lot of fun, sounding like Muse in places, but I just wish the vocal approach was less of the hard R USA style. Muse isn’t the only obvious comparison which leapt out at me in my early listens – certain riffs are very QOTSA and the album seems happy to be stuck in a 2002-2006 rock sound. That’s fine with me as that era had a lot of great bands (an awful lot of shite too). To the band’s credit, songs which begin with a certain sound or comparison, don’t always end with that comparison in place – Weird Leisure has an obvious QOTSA intro, but ends in a completely different place.

Tiny Indoor Fireworks is a fun, summery rock song, perfect for festivals and cider if we can ever have those again. As a rock or metal album, it never gets particularly heavy. It’s definitely aiming for a more accessible and commercial sound. It’s maybe the sort of accessible rock album which gets newbs interested in the genre – there’s enough melodies and big choruses for people to bop to while simultaneously getting accustomed to those heavier intros and sections so that when they hear a heavier album or band the experience is not as jarring, and they’re more willing to accept it. Even the more consistently heavy songs – End Of for example – have plenty of melody to invite the uninitiated. That song is an example of the band retaining their willingness to change things up within a four minute song., adding bonus riffs, jazz-infused licks, a brief instrumental, and layered vocals which range from screamo to choral.

The ballad of the piece – Space – it’s a little too on the nose and cheesy for my liking, coming from someone who loves cheesy ballads by rock bands. The lyrics are copy/pastes of every other love song you’ve ever heard and the simplicity of the melody alongside the not-great vocal performance are buried under too many layers of strings and noise. I do enjoy layered noise, and certainly layered strings, but Space should have been an example of less is more. Opaque fares better in this respect – the strings are awash with emotion, but they are restrained, and even the repetition of ‘take the fucking money’ which would normally come off as very silly just about clasps on to being earnest. It’s a much sweeter melody too, and the song builds through its restrained openings without ever reaching excessive levels. The closer does what good closers can sometimes do – encapsulate the entire tone and style of the album in a single song while wrapping up the themes and finishing things in a satisfying, moreish way. The Scottish accent forcefully comes through and the mixture of pop sensibility and furious pointed rock is at a high. Being the longest song on the album there is room for a little more artistic expression and musical freedom – the song moving into a beautiful instrumental section near the three minute mark. It’s a moment which stands out as unique on the album with the band feeling relaxed and confident enough to repeat and grow the melodies housed within the section. It’s the best part of the song and one of the finest moments on the album – there’s a shred of pity that the opening minutes of the song are more atypical shouty rock, complete with painful ‘fuck everybody’ chanting.

Lyrically the album is as mainstream and commercial as your generic pop – with this being Rock music the thematic content is more closely aligned to anger, regret, and pain than your boy/girl band/RnB fare. This means we get plenty of dramatic F-bombs, adolescent adjacent emotions, and plaintive choruses designed to be easily parotted by the masses. The album title has close ties with the recurring themes of the album – breakups, collapsing relationships, moving on, uncertainty – these are terrible things which we’re all likely to face but you can find strength in how you react to and progress from them. These endings can be celebrated, but throughout the album there are questions asked and sometimes the answers aren’t the beacons of hope we needed. The style is not overly poetic to the extent of being heavily laden with metaphor or reference – this increases the likelihood of listeners and readers understanding the sentiment and relating those to their own lives, but simultaneously makes the lyrics less interesting on an intellectual, personal, and emotional level.

It’s an immediate album – there’s nothing groundbreaking or challenging even as the band play around the format of a 3-4 minute rock song – but the hooks are not evasive and I found myself familiar with them after a single listen. Some of that immediacy was perhaps at a surface level as the songs rarely stayed with me by a few hours later, and any melody I found myself humming was quickly replaced when the next song came on. On the less cynical side – the sheer number of melodies suggests that anyone, myself included, would distinguish between these with additional listens and the album would become more distinct, memorable, and enjoyable. On a personal note I don’t think there’s actually enough here to encourage me back to the album, and even the standout songs aren’t screaming for me to hit play again.

Album Score

As I’m a maniac, lets try to continue with this scoring malarkey. You should know the drill by now; Twenty sections, each with a score of five, giving a total out of 100. Some sections are based on personal preference, but others should be mostly set in stone and free from bias.

Sales: 4. Look, we know this category and the next are not what they used to be – it’s no longer easy to say exactly how many copies have been sold and if those sales are high or low comparatively. What we can say is that the album sold fairly well in its opening weeks – enough to knock Taylor Swift off the top spot in the UK. Time will tell if the album continues to sell or comes to a dead stop. A four for now, based on how well it sold against its contemporaries.

Chart: 4. As above, early signs were positive. It didn’t make much of an impact in the US but was number in UK, Scotland, and 2nd in Ireland. A number 1 album in one of the major markets – basically US or UK – is usually good enough for a 4, but if it peaked there for a week and dropped away never to be seen again, you could have a 3. Some high spots in Europe, but average on the whole.

Critical: 4. Not flawless critical acclaim, but easily one of the most favourably rated rock albums of the year across the board. No negative reviews from any of the major outlets, but not always positive on the fan and blogger side (not counting myself in this discussion).

Originality: 3. It sounds like Biffy Clyro to me, if a little more commercial. Various critics pointed out the invention and creativity on display, but to my ears there is nothing out of the ordinary here in genre terms.

Influence: 2. This is one of those categories which you can only accurately score in retrospect – unless it’s so groundbreaking and pervasive that you see copycats and parodies within a year of its release. It’s unlikely for bands to be influential this deep into their career, and based on the info we currently have it feels like just another album.

Musical Ability: 3. I’ll get flack for pointing this the same as what I scored Bad Bunny’s album – an album which didn’t really contain musical instruments. But we had to rate them based on their genre and we rate Biffy as a rock band. They can play, then can make some noise, they can craft a meaty riff and melody. They do what they do, but there’s nothing jaw-dropping.

Lyrics: 3. A few embarrassing moments which fall into the trap of shouting swears in lieu of genuine anger, but by and large the lyrics are serviceable and get their point across without being especially poignant, poetic, or ingenious.

Melody: 3. I’ve gone back and forth on a 3 or a 4 for this. The album is jam packed with melodies, but as yet there aren’t many moments which have stuck with me or that I can recall if I read the song title. I could understand a 4 here as the melodies would have more impact on me with further listens and because the are simple and immediate… they just lacked a single outstanding earworm which I couldn’t dislodge from my brain.

Emotion: 3. There’s a lot of anger, there’s a lot of fear, pain, sadness, even some happiness in there. None of it truly resonated with me personally, as much as I could feel it pouring from the writing and the performance. As someone who rates emotional connection as second only to melody in terms of my enjoyment of music, I can’t go higher than a three when it didn’t make me feel anything.

Lastibility: 3. Difficult to gauge at this point, even if the album is almost a year old. I don’t think people are still talking about it now – in today’s musical landscape, if your song or album is still in the charts or being actively engaged with and spoken of within 6 months of its release, that would be considered a huge win. While I don’t as much stock in this category for a modern album versus an album released in previous decades, it feels like only long time fans will continue to sing this one’s praises.

Vocals: 3. I raised some of my personal grievances with the vocals in the first part of my post, but assuming most listeners won’t share those issues I’m happy to go with a 3. Nothing emotional or distinct enough to make me consider going higher.

Coherence: 4. It’s coherent – it doesn’t jump about from style to style, it doesn’t feel like there were a lot of different cooks adding their spices to the broth, and each song feels like a Biffy Clyro song.

Mood: 3. There’s a mixture of introspection and the need to break free from those inner thoughts – a constant war between bottling up feelings and letting them out. It’s not much of a stay in and listen album, more of a collection of 3 or 4 songs which would be fun to jump around to at a festival.

Production: 3. Solid. Crisp. I would have preferred some more variety in the arrangement but the production holds clear where it matters – the vocals, guitars, bass, and drums.

Effort: 3. Whether or not bands put the same amount of effort into writing and recording an album late in their career versus starting out is an interesting question. The people doing the writing and recording would of course say they’ve worked their asses off. I have called this a fairly standard Biffy album, while critics who presumably know better than me have said how surprising and inventive it all is. I go with a 3 – 4 seems reasonable too.

Relationship: 3. I’ve already mentioned that the music and lyrics didn’t make any grand emotional or intellectual communication with me. It is still big shouty rock music, so even if it’s garbage (it’s not) there will be a bare minimum trace connection I can latch on to. This is the genre I have most affinity for and I understand what goes into making a good rock song. As also mentioned – if you know anything about the band, you’d know this was a Biffy album as soon as you heard a single song. They know what they’re doing and they’re still doing it.

Genre Relation: 3. It doesn’t do anything especially non-committal or shocking for the genres of rock or metal, but it was highly rated and sold well commercially – those factors count for a lot in this category as it means the album stands out over and above the albums which didn’t sell or received average reviews. It’s hardly the pinnacle of the genre and there are plenty of bands going today who are making much stronger, much less known albums. 3 for me.

Authenticity: 4. It’s true to what a Biffy album should be, even if it does aim to be more commercial. There’s nothing wrong with trying to be commercial, but there can be trouble if your band started out with a specific agenda or specific audience which you later move away from. This album should see the majority of existing fans happy with the end result, and the more commercial touches could invite new listeners.

Personal: 3. It’s fine. I can’t see me listening to it again, but I’m not a long-time fan. I’ve been aware of the band, I’ve seen them live, I’ve heard plenty of their songs, and while they’ve never been for me I appreciate their cult following. This album hasn’t changed how I feel about the band, but it’s cool they’re still going and that they’ve found their niche and are able to be successful. A handful of songs I had more than an average enjoyment for, a few annoying moments and choices, but by and large an album I’ll forget.

Miscellaneous: 2. Nothing striking about the artwork, any of the videos, nothing interesting about the release of the album that I’m aware of. Lets go with an average 2.

Total: 63/100

Let us know in the comments what you think of A Celebration Of Endings!

Nightman Listens To Bad Bunny: YHLQMDLG (2020 Series)!

Note * since originally writing this I have since been watching Bad Bunny’s antics in WWE, so I now know who he is. Not that any of that helps with the music…

Bad Bunny: YHLQMDLG Album Review | Pitchfork

Greetings, Glancers! What the balls is this? Well, this is my first official post in my new series which sees me listening to 25 of the most highly rated albums of 2020. At the time of writing, I’m a 37 year old white bloke with a wife, three children, and a cat (the cat is unmarried and unburdened with kittens). I’m no longer a target demographic for the Top 40 crowd and I’m happy with that. I’ve had issues with the charts for as long as I can remember, and some of my earliest childhood arguments were fought and lost due to my frustration with all of the other 10 year old boys and girls who couldn’t fathom that there was other music out there in the world. I still watched The Chart Show, TOTP, and tuned in to MTV if I was at a friend’s who was rich enough to afford Sky TV. So while I bitched about the crap, I was also excited for the good. That’s the life of a jaded music fan. Not that it lends me any further credibility, but it’s worth mentioning that I’ve messed about in bands and have been a DJ around Northern Ireland – I like music.

As outlined in my original post – I’m doing this because I’m curious. I’ve done little experiments like this before where I’ve slogged through the biggest singles in a given year, but this is the first time I’ve strived to commit to the artists and give them more than a cursory half-assed listen. I don’t have a lot of hope that I’ll actually enjoy much of this. No, I do have hope. I want to enjoy this. I’m just not confident that I will. But we’re all chasing that new high, that new favourite. I have no interest in bringing up these albums or artists in daily conversation, I’m not trying to stay modern, I don’t care about following a trend – I am simply curious about what passes for good music these days and I hope to find some new stuff to obsess over, maybe outside of my current preferences. If there’s one rule I try to live by, it’s to experience as much as possible (even if that is limited to what you enjoy – movies, music, art, travelling) and to bend those limitations which you or a wider institution have placed upon you so you can look beyond your  comfort levels in an attempt to experience something new; Devout Metal fans should listen to EDM. Rappers should listen to Country. Movie fans should watch foreign movies and films from decades before they were born. The Left should try to understand the Right. Vice verse for one and all.

Which leads me finally to today’s album and artist. The album name is presumably an acronym – I’m going to guess it’s either for something naughty or something wordy and supposedly meaningful but which would have looked ridiculous if typed in full. Bad Bunny – I don’t know if this is a person, a band, a bot, though there’s something familiar about it as if I’ve heard a friend talk about it once upon a time. In truth, when I heard the term Bad Bunny, it made me think of the Vincent Gallo movie Brown Bunny, but that’s not something I particularly want to think about. So yes, I am writing this intro before having heard a single second of music from this album, looked at the tracklist, the artwork, or anything else. Thanks to the magical time travelling abilities of blogging, by the time I begin the next paragraph I’ll have listened to the whole thing multiple times (for my sins). Don’t worry, not all of my intros will be this long (LIES).

After a quick search on Youtube to find the album, I saw it staring back at me with a future-retro cover hinting at 80s antics, Amblin kids on bikes getting into fun adventures, scuffed knees, alien side-kicks, and nostalgic fantasies. It’s a cool album cover which had me thinking maybe there’s some interesting stuff inside. There is interesting stuff inside – but it’s not what I was expecting from the cover, and it’s not the kind of music I think I’ll ever be able to enjoy. 

On the positive side, I was worried the vocals would all be in the vein of Shaggy, which is not something I’m sure I could have tolerated for an entire album. Thankfully we don’t sink so low, but we do scrape several of the modern pop landscape’s barrels – autotuning, monotone vocals, guest vocalists, and that’s before we get to the album’s more notable quirks and annoyances. Auto-tuning isn’t going to go away at this point, and while I accept it has its place in certain types of music and that it was over-used in the past to cover up cracks in vocal talent and save time in the studio, it is now being used as the go-to and as a badge of honour. I don’t like it merely because it’s a cheat, or because it doesn’t sound human, or because it personally grates on me – but mainly because it cuts out the the genuine emotion of a human touch and removes the grime and tangible effort you can feel when hearing someone sing or speak. There’s no breath or heft or roughness. It also has a habit of making singers who may actually have wildly different vocals sound the same. If I’m listening to an artist or a band, I want to hear and feel the individuals. I’m choosing to listen to them over someone else, so I want to feel and hear YOU, not someone else. This tells me either you’re too afraid to stand apart or be unique, or it tells me that you genuinely are not unique. Perhaps it tells me that your voice is garbage and you have to hide the fact, which pisses me off because there are hundreds of thousands of genuinely great singers out there scraping a living or hoping for a chance.

The album is littered with samples ranging from the amusing and well-placed to the hackneyed and overplayed. How many times must we be subjected to the already overrated, overplayed, and over-sampled Get Your Freak On? Those instances where the samples are used more creatively, to create interludes and transitions and shifts in rhythm, such as in Hablamos Manana, raise my interaction with the album to more than a base level. It’s a shame those moments tend to come later in the album – by that point I’ve already become jaded and worn out by the repetition and sameness of the opening ten tracks. As we’re in the Spotify and Playlist generation now, albums are no longer made to be heard in a linear fashion with the running order the artist decided – it’s all about shuffling and picking your favourites so possibly that is a moot point for many. I prefer the old school approach.

While the whole product does revel in the repetition and monotony now expected in chart music, there is enough creativity and flashes of light for me to assume that behind it all there’s an interesting creative voice. Most of the album keeps to solid 4/4 time and it’s a fairly slow affair, but the songs progressively grow more loose with their timing and become roughly experimental in their adoption of multiple pauses if not outright signature shifts – Puesto Pa’ Guerrial, and P FKN R are more playful and interesting than many of the more traditional songs on the album, featuring breathless or hypnotic staccato rapping.

While the album is firmly rooted in Dance and Pop tropes, it’s not ‘my kind of Dance music’. Not that I ever cared about Dance music in the slightest (or dancing, because I’m not a child), but when I was at a club in my younger days and forced onto the dancefloor, I wanted something with a fat beat to lose myself in. Something euphoric. Not to say the beats here are complex but they seem to lend themselves to a more subtle and seductive way of dance and movement.  Yo Perreo Solo is infectious – catchy to the extent that I could have seen 17 year old me giving it large if it were blasting in Ibiza, while Bichiyal reminded me of Radiohead’s The Gloaming with it’s zooming, morphing synths.

The rhythm of the vocals doesn’t differ from song to song – maybe that’s the language, maybe it’s the beat, but I found myself wandering about the house making up my own gibberish following the same rhythm, and it wasn’t difficult to invent a vocal near enough identical to the real thing. While it isn’t necessarily reasonable to expect variation in rhythm from track to track, it’s nice to have, you know, some. On top of making up my own gibberish and only identifying the odd shout of ‘Puerto Rico’, I was left to my own interpretational devices. This means I came up with own alternative lyrics which became my personal names for songs. There was ‘No Cranky‘. There’s ‘Dirty Water’. There’s ‘The Grudge‘ and there’s ‘Random Bloke Starts Yelling Like A Big Naughty Boy At End Of Song For Reasons Unknown‘. Coupled with the sheer amount of songs, it was a slog to get through in my early listens and I found it a struggle to grab hold of anything that I could look forward to on the next listen. Songs come and go with little variety, blending into one another like a party you didn’t ask for and which just won’t end. 

It’s difficult to distinguish between a multitude of songs in a short period at the best of times. While I can appreciate the platitudes given to so called genre-hopping, this is still very much a dance-pop album with limited melodic ideas, and the variety only goes so far. Little respect is given to crafting emotional peaks or stand-outs. That was never the intention – this is a party album designed to help party people dance and have a good time. It succeeds in that respect, but as someone who looks for a deeper connection to my music and reasons to keep coming back to an album, that depth is lacking. It’s this year’s plastic pollutant pop album, which will be replaced by next year’s. That’s a half criticism, a personal criticism – but why not take the time and put in the effort to ensure your music achieves the next level? There’s nothing standing in the way of a pop or dance album also becoming a piece of timeless art beyond hard work, will, and creativity. 

Beyond the tunes I’ve already mentioned, La Dificil has some melodic highlights which are almost buried by other annoyances like the ever recurring ‘oy’ or ‘ay’ shouts between lines. Elsewhere on the album, where there is a notable melody it tends to be saturated to the point of pointlessness due to repetition. I imagine I would have seen the the vocals in a more positive light if it weren’t for the myriad annoying giggles, laughter, barking, twee little fake crying gulps, and other skin-crawling vocal tics. And they’re on every. Single. Track.

Safaera is probably the most interesting song – lots of pauses and samples and different vocals and it plays to the strengths of the individual artists while downplaying the aforementioned annoyances. is a suitably chilled ending, though the freestyle breathless nature of the rapping doesn’t let up. On the whole I can’t see me ever returning to the album and within a week of my last listen I’ll have completely forgotten any of the melodies – as I already stated, this is a completely disposable collection of songs for someone like me; it doesn’t connect with me on a musical, emotional, intellectual, or cultural level, and it didn’t entertain me. The key point is that it was never meant for someone like me. If it’s your sort of thing – you’re welcome to it.

The Miz Sounds Off on Bad Bunny After WWE Royal Rumble Face-Off - E! Online

Album Score

Am I seriously going to do this? I’ll try it with one album, and maybe it won’t work. I’m not a fan of scoring stuff, but if I’m going to do it I may as well assign a thorough system to the attempt. With scoring, you’re never going to fully step outside your own preference and bias, but you should use a system which limits those biases, forces you to apply certainties, and at least factor in things you wouldn’t consider in a biased review. For a full overview of my system click here, but in essence you divide a product into an equally rated set of the parts which make up that product, then add up the total. No section is weighted as more or less important than any other.  It’s not a perfect system, but it’s as good as you’re going to get.

Sales: 5. Streaming and all that gubbins has effed up this category beyond repair, but we have to remain contemporary and view the album in the context of the time of its release. We don’t talk about physical sales anymore – instead it’s album equivalent units – which has led to artists consciously packing more songs into an album (more songs basically equates to higher potential streams and ‘sales’). It’s a nonsensical system created as a panic knee-jerk reaction to ensure rich people can have more yachts and coke. This is one of the biggest selling Spanish speaking albums ever, certainly of recent years. It was Spotify’s most streamed album of 2020. Seriously?

Chart: 5. It peaked at 2 on the US Billboard, and lingered in the Top 10 for ages. Interestingly, all 20 songs were released as singles in the ‘Hot Latin Songs’ chart, whatever that is, so it was clearly designed to be a populist commercial affair. No matter how you slice it, this was a Sales and Charts monster.

Critical: 4. I’m reviewing this album (and the others in this series) precisely because they were critical and commercial successes. Whether critical consensus changes over time remains to be seen, but as of 2020 it was highly rated. It is under the Universally Acclaimed branch of Metacritic, but user reviews are much more divisive (which you would expect). Due to the fact that there are so many bad User Reviews and because of the newness, I can’t give it the full 5 – I respect if you do score 5 here, but anything less than 4 would be ridiculous. 

Originality: 3. This will be a tricky one because this is a type of music I have little experience with or affinity for. In my most closed-minded moments I could say that it just sounds the same as everything else. On the surface, there is certainly that feeling of sameness. It uses a lot of samples. It follows the same modern production trends, sounds, and beats as much of what I heave heard over the last several years. However, critical reviews do speak to the sprawling creativity and twists on genre tropes so I bow to their greater knowledge. I therefore go for an average score, siding on the positive. 

Influence: 2. It’s too early to say. We could point to its success possibly leading to advances in the genre, based on what this album achieves artistically. Given the average Originality score and the fact that it doesn’t really sound too different from what came before, it’s doubtful that its influence will go far beyond producing a raft of imitators. 

Musical Ability: 3. Not a lot of ‘real instruments’ employed on this one – much of the musical content is sampling and studio trickery. Even with that taken into consideration, the ability on display is not of a high nature. There is talent, but that talent is limited to a series of similar tricks with the overall purpose being to dance or nod your head to – something which takes little to no effort.

Lyrics: 2. It’s all in Spanish, so I’m at a loss already. The English parts are your usual Gangsta crap or samples. Critical reviews don’t focus so much on the lyrics but the user reviews are highly critical of the content – those not critical of the content are critical of the fact that it’s simply more of the same well worn tropes.

Melody: 2. Very few noticeable hooks stretched over the 20 songs and over an hour’s worth of music, which is unforgivable for a Pop record. There are a few moments, limited to 2-3 songs. Elsewhere, several of the obvious hooks are incredibly grating. 

Emotion: 1. If there is any emotional content to be found within, I couldn’t identify it. If there is, it’s at a surface level. 

Lastibility: 3. Another one that is difficult to gauge until at least a full year after release. Given its sales and success I can only assume that people are still listening to this and will continue to. At least until the next thing comes along, at which point I imagine this will die a death. 

Vocals: 2. When the most positive thing you can say about a vocalist (or indeed an album) is that the singer doesn’t sound like Shaggy, you probably don’t have a good album on your hands. There are many guest vocalists here – few of them make any real impact and few seem to have a truly distinct voice. The central vocals are auto-tuned to sound like a million other hitmakers. There could be something good here – we aren’t given the change to find out, or care. 

Coherence: 4. It’s certainly a very coherent album – beats, tone, approach are all consistent. Based on what I’ve read of the thematic and lyrical content, there is a coherent flow from start to finish. 

Mood: 3. I assume the album sets out to make you dance and chill and have a fun old time. That probably works for some people, but as someone adverse to having fun old times which involve dancing, it didn’t achieve its purpose. The mood veers between middling minor peaks and middling quieter moments – there isn’t much variety, which you can take as either a positive or a negative in this category. It didn’t make me feel much of anything or affect my mood.

Production: 3. It’s over produced within an inch of its life, but there’s clearly a lot of skill involved. I don’t like the techniques used or the overall effect they produce, but I can appreciate the skill involved. It doesn’t do anything new. 

Effort: 3. Without looking into interviews and behind the scenes pieces on how easy or difficult the writing and recording of this was, it’s again difficult to give anything other than an average score. It’s certainly a large album – 20 songs, so that’s 20 individual pieces of writing, adding the music and ideas and production and guests, I’m sure there was a significant amount of effort involved. But that’s just like any other album.

Relationship: 2. I feel like I’ll be saying this a lot throughout the 2020 series, but this is not music made for me. I’m not the target audience. It’s not my genre, or ever something I would seek beyond this experiment. While I can appreciate the artistry and see what they’re doing and see who it is for, it means nothing to me. From what I have read and heard, it’s not too dissimilar to any of the dude’s previous stuff – again this can be a positive and a negative.

Genre Relation: 4. How does this relate to Reggaeton – I have no clue as I didn’t know that term existed before hearing this album. But I have heard a lot of music with identical beats and rhythm to this. In the wider parent genres of Pop and Dance, it ticks most of the boxes (repetitive, simple, makes you want to dance). For me, it lacks the melody and emotion I look for in those (in any) genres to elevate the thing to a higher status, but knowing that melody and emotion isn’t exactly en vogue in chart music these days – this relates nicely to everything else. 

Authenticity: 3. It’s not ‘authentic’ when we consider music in a wider sense, or art in a higher sense, but in the closest context of modern commercial pop and it’s specific sub-genre, it is authentic. It can’t get higher than a 3 from me because of the cynical nature of stuffing the album and releasing every song – smacking instead of trying to monopolise rather than be authentic.

Personal: 2. It’s not something I would normally listen to, and there’s nothing here I’d ever choose to listen to again. I recognise some of the talent involved, I recognise it’s for kids and for those less picky about what they consume. It did nothing for me on a personal level – it didn’t make me want to sing along, dance, investigate other songs by those involved. It’s not unlistenable, and if I were to hear one of the songs again and didn’t have the ability to skip it or tune out, I could tolerate it. An obvious 2.

Miscellaneous: 2. I like the album artwork. An average 2, nothing else surrounding the album that I’m aware of to make me care any more.

Total: 58/100

There you go – surely things can only go up from here? I’m in for a torrid time if this is the best album of the 25 I’ll be listening to. I doubt that will be the case because I’ve deliberately selected from different genres and there will be types of music I’m more familiar with. Feel free to let me know in the comments how wrong I am, and feel free to share what it is you love about the album!

Nightman Listens To The Best Albums Of 2020 (album list)!

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Yes, it’s another bad photo by me. But I like it.

Greetings, Glancers! I’ve had a bit of a think about how to best go about this new series. I’ve picked a number of ‘respectable’ publications and I’m going to pick their top FIVE albums of 2020 to listen to and share my thoughts. I’m also taking Billboard’s top five selling albums of the year. Where there is any overlap, I’ll move on to the 6th pick, or 7th pick etc. What that should leave me with is 25 new albums for me to listen to over the course of this year.

These are going to be different reviews from my usual posts. Typically in my Nightman Listens posts, I listen to the album once, frantically typing my thoughts before each song ends. It’s not the best way to gauge quality or solidify my own opinions. But it’s fast and allows me to get through a lot. In my Marillion posts, I’m listening to each album multiple times until I am happy to write something meaningful, or until I get sick of it – though I’m still going song by song. Writing an entry for each song feels like I’m constrained and forced into repetition or finding something to say about a song that I don’t have many feelings on or words to use. With these 2020 posts, I’ll be a little more loose and write only about the songs which stood out in a positive or negative way, with a summary about my feelings on the album as a whole. I don’t anticipate that I’ll due much journalistic due diligence around the album or artist details – what prompted the album, who the band members are, any of the surrounding context which a good reviewer absolutely should talk about. If I particularly enjoy an album I’ll do that naturally, or maybe I’ll be curious about a particular person or song and want to delve deeper. We. Will. See.

The publications I have chosen are:

NME: Because it was once upon a time the foremost in good British music journalism and opinion. Is it still? No idea.

BBC: Because I’m British and they probably will pick a mixture of commercial and curio.

Rolling Stone: Because it’s a mixture of BBC and NME, but with a US slant.

Kerrang: Because I wanted some Metal. Or rock.

Best Selling: Because critics and reviewers often disagree, and I want the popular vote too.

There are a lot of other publications I could have selected – Pitchfork, Metal Hammer, Metacritic, or been more genre specific. But these are the ones I’ve nailed down and am sticking with.

Below are the albums each publication has selected. I’m listing their Top Fives first. Where there is duplication I will follow up with a second list, adding one further entry from that publication’s chart. Then at the bottom, I’m giving the final list of what I will be listening to, in alphabetical order (and that’s the order I’m going to listen and post by) alongside my immediate brief thoughts on the artist.

NME:

5: Phoebe Bridgers: Punisher

4: The Strokes: The New Abnormal

3: Dua Lipa: Future Nostalgia

2: Taylor Swift: Folklore

1: Run The Jewels: RTJ4

BBC: They actually didn’t go with a Top five, just a rambling post mentioning some albums.

5: Fiona Apple: Fetch The Bolt Cutters

4: Chloe X Halle: Ungodly Hour

3: Bob Dylan: Rough And Rowdy Ways

2: Roisin Murphy: Roisin Machine

1: Perfume Genius: Set My Heart On Fire Immediately

Rolling Stone:

5: Dua Lipa: Future Nostalgia

4: Bob Dylan: Rough And Rowdy Ways

3: Bad Bunny: YHLQMDLG

2: Fiona Apple: Fetch The Bolt Cutters

1: Taylor Swift: Folklore

Kerrang:

5: Enter Shikari: Nothing Is True And Everything Is Possible

4: Ghostmane: Anti-Icon

3: Deftones: Ohms

2: Biffy Clyro: A Celebration Of Endings

1: Code Orange: Underneath

Best Selling:

5: Taylor Swift: Folklore

4: Fine Lines: Harry Styles

3: Roddy Ricch: Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial

2: Lil Baby: My Turn

1: Post Malone: Hollywood’s Bleeding.

And now, the list updated to remove duplicates:

NME:

5: Phoebe Bridgers: Punisher

4: The Strokes: The New Abnormal

3: Dua Lipa: Future Nostalgia

2: Taylor Swift: Folklore

1: Run The Jewels: RTJ4

BBC:

5: Fiona Apple: Fetch The Bolt Cutters

4: Chloe X Halle: Ungodly Hour

3: Bob Dylan: Rough And Rowdy Ways

2: Roisin Murphy: Roisin Machine

1: Perfume Genius: Set My Heart On Fire Immediately

Rolling Stone:

5: Lady Gaga: Chromatica

4: Jessie Ware: What’s Your Pleasure?

3: Lil Uzi Vert: Eternal Atake

2: Waxahatchee: Saint Cloud

1: Bad Bunny: YHLQMDLG

Kerrang:

5: Enter Shikari: Nothing Is True And Everything Is Possible

4: Ghostmane: Anti-Icon

3: Deftones: Ohms

2: Biffy Clyro: A Celebration Of Endings

1: Code Orange: Underneath

Best Selling:

5: Pop Smoke: Shoot For The Stars Aim For The Moon

4: Fine Lines: Harry Styles

3: Roddy Ricch: Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial

2: Lil Baby: My Turn

1: Post Malone: Hollywood’s Bleeding

And finally, the posting order with some basic pleasantries:

  1. Bad Bunny: YHLQMDLG (I have never heard of this person or thing)

2. Biffy Clyro: A Celebration Of Endings (I’ve seen them live a couple of times, and yet I’ve never cared to listen to a single album and I doubt I could name a single song)

3. Bob Dylan: Rough And Rowdy Ways (I’ve toyed with the idea of doing a full Dylan album run through. But I just can’t get past his voice)

4. Chloe X Halle: Ungodly Hour (I have never heard of this person or thing)

5. Code Orange: Underneath (I have never heard of this person or thing)

6. Deftones: Ohms (Was never a fan, always seemed to droning and moaning and, well, shit)

7. Dua Lipa: Future Nostalgia (She’s a Liverpool fan, right?)

8. Enter Shikari: Nothing Is True And Everything Is Possible (Same with Biffy Clyro, except I don’t think I’ve seen this lot live).

9. Fiona Apple: Fetch The Bolt Cutters (I don’t think I’ve listened to a Fiona Apple song since the 90s. Except that one time on mushrooms one of my mates was trying to teach me to remember the full name of that really long album title she has. I failed, and ended up chatting to a scarecrow instead).

10. Ghostmane: Anti-Icon (I have never heard of this person or thing)

11. Harry Styles: Fine Lines (One of the boys from One Direction, right?)

12. Jessie Ware: What’s Your Pleasure? (I have never heard of this person or thing)

13. Lady Gaga: Chromatica (I’ve always viewed her as a B Grade Sia, without actually giving her the time of day. Maybe I’m wrong).

14. Lil Baby: My Turn (I have never heard of this person or thing)

15. Lil Uzi Vert: Eternal Atake (I have never heard of this person or thing – why do so many, I’m assuming, rappers have ‘Lil’ as part of their name? Is there a genuine story behind this? Because it makes you all sound like dicks. Lil Dicks.)

16. Perfume Genius: Set My Heart On Fire Immediately (I have never heard of this person or thing)

17. Phoebe Bridgers: Punisher (I have never heard of this person or thing)

18. Pop Smoke: Shoot For The Stars Aim For The Moon (I have never heard of this person or thing)

19. Post Malone: Hollywood’s Bleeding (I have heard of this person or thing, but don’t think I could name a single song)

20. Roddy Ricch: Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial (I have never heard of this person or thing)

21. Roisin Murphy: Roisin Machine (I may have seen her live, maybe with Moloko? A colleague of my wife has claimed that my wife looks like young Roisin Murphy. Yay?)

22. Run The Jewels: RTJ4 (I have never heard of this person or thing)

23. Taylor Swift: Folklore (It looks like I’m finally hopping on this bandwagon then. I’m aware that she’s meant to be this person that everyone can admit to liking – like, ooh I’m a hipster but Taylor Swift is cool, or ooh I’m a seven year old girl and want to be Taylor Swift, or ooh I’m a big scary metal guy but Taylor Swift is baddass. Based on the few songs I’ve heard by her, my opinion has been ooh, I’m not a fucking knob and Taylor Swift makes shite music. But again, maybe I’m wrong).

24. The Strokes: The New Abnormal (When these boys first hit the big time, I was a lone dissenting voice. Couldn’t stand the vocals, the lack of variety and creativity alarmed me to the point that I genuinely believed everyone praising them for such had gone insane. Maybe they have grown beyond hitting the same three chords with the same rhythm in the last 20 years).

25. Waxahatchee: Saint Cloud (I have never heard of this person or thing)

There you have it. Which of the above albums do my more musical followers approve of or recommend? Are there any albums from 2020 not included above that I should definitely hear? Let us know in the comments!

Nightman Listens To The Best Albums Of 2020 (and blog meanderings)!

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Remember going and seeing live music with actual real life people?

Greetings, Glancers! It’s what nobody asked for – more moaning about music by me. Puhlease, pretty puhlease try to understand that I’m really only doing this for myself. I want to keep track of modern music – not just the artists I listen to myself, but what the majority of people and critics are listening to and loving. I could do that without writing about it, but I find that if I have a task to complete – such as writing a post – then I’ll give more dedication to it, something more than a cursory throwaway listen (I’m also going to try to give all of the other albums I’m listening to for my other series more than a single listen).

This post is just to alert all of you that it’s coming. I don’t know what sort of format this is going to take – do I look at some consensus site and listen to the top 50 albums there? Do I go around various publications and lists and listen to the top five on each, from NME to Metal Hammer to Q to Rolling Stone to the biggest sellers? I don’t know. What I do know is that I want to hear music I wasn’t previously aware of. I want a mix of genres. I’m not holding out much hope for finding a new favourite band or singer, that would be nice, but if I can find a couple of songs on each album to enjoy then I suppose I’ll be happy. Mostly, I don’t want to be the curmudgeonly old man out of touch with new music.

At the time of writing, I haven’t checked out any of the sites or publications or lists to have any idea of what was popular in 2020. I think there was a new Taylor Swift album which dropped out of the blue? I haven’t listened to anything by her, but I am at least aware she exists. I assume there will be a bunch of crappy next big thing Indie bands, plenty of in your face Rap peeps, and a lot of overrated solo crooners. On the Metal side, I don’t really know. I bought hardly any new albums last year that I have listened to a significant number of times… JDB’s new album, the new Lovebites album… that’s about it.

Elsewhere, I still have this niggling urge to start my own podcast. The thing holding me back, as with anything, is the effort involved. I wouldn’t want it just to be a random chat, though that would make up a significant part of each episode. There would be a focus, leaning towards something similar to what I do on the blog, such as a listenathon of a particular artist or chart but with the bonus of having the opinion of another 1-3 people. But I’d like to start each episode with general chit chat and catch up on what movies and shows we’ve been watching. The other problem is of course finding 1-3 other people. I’m old – I don’t have friends anymore!

I realise that I already have a load of other series on the go – some are close to the end, some are only beginning, and some will probably never be done. In other words, this new thing will always be a work in progress and by the time I get around to listening and posting it may very well be the end of 2021. But as it’s a work in progress I’ll just keep carrying it on from year to year, and hey, maybe rather than going track by track I’ll actually write the thing like a real reviewer! Between following Marillion, finishing up my Bowie, Bon Jovi, Madonna, Beatles Solo bits, Beach Boys, and Best Evers, and now throwing newbs into the mix, I’m hoping to enrich my musical oeuvre and maybe learn a thing or three along the way.

Let us know if you have any favourites of 2020 you think I should check out!

Teenage 20/20

Generic Ratings: 1: Crap. 2: Okay. 3: Good. 4: Great

I’ve always had a soft spot for this one, as it was one I didn’t track down until fairly late in my rarities search. Just when I thought I’d heard them all, I finally got my hands on this, expecting it to be just another low-quality, fuzz-filled early effort. I’m not sure why it took so long to hear, given that it got an official release on the New Art Riot EP, but there you go. Thankfully I was more than pleasantly surprised when I first heard it, as it’s a very good B Side. It’s another blues based punk rock song with a huge, catchy chorus, the odd good angsty lyric, a stomping rhythm, and plenty of nice guitar moments. This is one which has catchy melodies from start to finish, the way Bradfield pulls off the pauses in the verses is great, but it’s that chorus which you’ll remember later. Good luck working out the lyrics without reading them.

Teenage 20 20: 3/Good

Misheard Lyrics: 1. We’re dead dogs, and damn we’re stupid.

2. I wanna wake to separated wealth.

3. Take a straight jack (?) to my useless boat (??)

4. I don’t like your silly reggae hair. Dying in a fascist evil door/barn/fog

5. Speeding, so lonely, a swell atom bomb

6. Desmile twiggy, eat the egg bomb.

7. Sit, don’t stammer, our vintage smell, automatic, corporational.

Actual Lyrics: 1: We’re dead end dolls and nothing’s moving.

2: I wanna wake to a shot parade of wealth.

3: And take a spraycan to my useless vote.

4: I don’t like your city Dresden dance. I’m drowning in a manufactured ego-fuck.

5. Speeding so lonely into wall after wall

6: Teenage 20/20 beat the in-call.

7 Stick to the stomach of our fingertip call, all your rebellion corporation owned.