The Gathering – How To Measure A Planet?

Here we go, the album which is inexplicably never included on any Best Albums Of The Nineties List – How To Measure A Planet? The band’s fifth album remains their most ambitious, their most epic, and some would say their best. In another shift in direction for the band this album is much more ambient than all of their previous work with many softer ballad type songs lighter guitars, more emphasis on effects and soundscapes and is more progressively influenced than metal. Naturally this alienated many fans who expected another heavy album, but most fans realize that the band are never satisfied with retreading the same ground- each new album should be challenging and entertaining for themselves as well as their fans and they would probably get bored if they made the same styles of music. The double CD is a loose concept album involving space and time travel but wider subjects such as loss, loneliness, and our insignificance in an inconceivable universe. While many of the songs are more mellow the bands famous melodies remain, Anneke is on peak form with her vocals while the lyrics are steadily progressing, and Rene weaves some chilled solos at one point, to hard-edged riffs the next. Many of the songs here are played live, some are played as entirely different versions. While some may not see this as necessarily their best album, it shows off their talents as musicians and writers more than any other.

`Frail’ opens with some unnerving hissing and swirling electronic noises before a delayed and stuttering guitar riff plays gently. This is the band at their most downbeat. Anneke sings softly, but with great force. The effect here is of setting off into space, alone and helpless in a capsule flying so fast into space that it seems as if time has come to a stand still. There is an even pacing and steady progression here, nothing is rushed and it sounds as if the band are in complete creative control of every aspect of the recording. The lyrics speak of redemption, sacrifice and weakness, but that in sacrifice there is great strength. This opening tells us that this is an album to listen to in the dark rather than one to jump around to like the previous ones.

`Great Ocean Road’ has revolving riffs, electronic noises fading in and out, industrial sounding drums. Again the pace is slower although there is enough of a head banging beat if you search for it. The high levels of production are apparent here- everything is in perfect balance, there is a large depth of sound, and each track is perfectly clear. The musical territory is again unexplored taking the band to new levels, and Anneke gets to show off her whispery tones for the first time. She may be able to scream as well as anyone, but when she sings quietly it is as if she is a long-lost friend watching over you, singing from another place and time. There is another classic Rutten solo here, the brothers competing with each, drums and guitars clashing for which is more noticeable. Hans usually doesn’t get the credit he deserves, here his talent is a bright dot on the radar.

`Rescue Me’ starts with a lonely guitar and the solitude grows from there. Anneke gives one of her most beautiful performances here and there are definite shades of OK computer. This again has the feeling of floating uncontrollably through the night surrounded only by emptiness with your thoughts as sole company. While some of the more downbeat songs on Nighttime Birds were lacking a spark or some missing piece, on this album they sound more than complete. The growing, distorted guitars here are a highlight, merging with the laser sounds before fading back to Anneke. This is one of their best and most underrated songs, and one to play to an uninitiated friend as proof of their genius.

`My Electricity’ isn’t one of my favourite songs here, but is still very good; not many albums have that effect. It is more simply constructed song and quite sparse compared with others- Anneke sings perfectly as always, the guitars are almost in the background while the drums and computerized beats take centre stage. The slow pace of the album continues here, sounding drowsy and sleep deprived- exactly the tone they sought to achieve.

`Liberty Bell’ is the first track where the pace picks up, and may be the only track on the album which lets the crowd bounce up and down. Anneke’s effects filled vocals swirl around the growing drums, guitars- there is almost a Beach Boys feel to it until the main riff breaks in and we thankfully mosh. The video sees Anneke in a space ship zooming about the galaxy with trippy visuals in some sort of homage to Kubrick’s 2001. This is a nice rock song with catchy melodies, simple sing along lyrics, not as heavy as Third Chance and more akin to Adrenaline. The song features some sound clips in the place of guitar solos, focusing more on the fading and returning riffs and chords. I like of (unintentional?) irony of the line `we are sitting in a chair’ lyric as this is the only song on the album which makes you want to get on your feet.

`Red Is A Slow Colour’ crashes in with some loud though almost acoustic chords. I like the use of drums here, stopping and starting in unusual places to give the impression of a foreign time signature being used. The lyrics are quite poetic here, brooding and symbolic speaking of rage, possibly death, hallucinating and any number of other themes. Again this is a more simple song, but the straightforward nature is hidden under the dense amount of percussion and effects. Hans gives one of his best performances here, while Rene is happy to play only a few chords, the digital strings give an added futuristic, unreal tone to the music. The long outro is quite strange but never becomes repetitive and the scratching sounds are one of the best effects on the album.

`The Big Sleep’ may be the most drowsy song yet featuring some excellent effects and synthesizer work. The subject is obviously sleep deprivation, made worse by the narrator travel light years between places. There seems to be zero guitar work here, at least not in any traditional sense, and the flute/phone like effect at the end of the chorus is probably my favourite that the band have ever used. Anneke harmonizes with herself, dual and triple voices coming in from various corners, drifting in and out to give the sense of falling in and out of consciousness. I would warn listeners from playing the hypnotic refrain at the end whilst driving- it is the best kind of sleep inducing.

`Marooned’ is one of the best songs the band has ever written- excellent lyrics, beautiful melodies, sublime music. I prefer the live versions such as the one on Sleepy Buildings, but the music and tone here fit so well with the rest of the album. There is desperation in the lyrics, the vocals, a distance and emptiness in the music, although the lyrics are more like an unrelated love song of despair rather than mirroring the space travel theme. The xylophone style middle part, the radio static effects, the chorus- every second of this is music at its best.

`Travel’ is one of, if not the top fan favourite epics. Opening with various bleeps and clicks, the drums and guitars drop in creating one of the most memorable introductions I think of. While the album version is quite heavy in places, the band usually prefer to play this much more softly live. The lyrics are among the best they have written, lyric gets a chance to shout like on previous albums and for quite a long song it never feels boring, drawn out or repetitive. It is the band’s tribute to music, with contrasting thoughts on performances- the exhaustion of touring, the Vampiric energy which travels between crowd and performer. The second half of the song has some good melodies with Anneke’s lonely voice yelling out in seeming agony to create a classic ending. It is an apt closing song for the first half the album, and one which frequently closes concerts.

`South American Ghost Ride’ opens the inferior second half of the album. Inferior to part one yes, but still better than what most other bands can achieve. The song begins with what sounds like sound clips from a variety of TV shows- some distorted, some played in reverse. The theremin wind effect is put to good use here, creating an atmospheric opening. The ghostly guitars blend in well showing that the band are amongst a few select group who can write instrumental pieces that are not boring. The only vocals here are an almost laughing Anneke chanting before the TV show sounds come back in. The dissonance of the ending does well to compliment to mood of confusion, and the winding down finish does not feel like a cheap gimmick.

`Illuminating’ sees the drums and keyboards take the lead again, while Anneke’s vocals grow to the burst of the chorus. Again the lyrics tell the story well rather than being a collection of words stapled together. This is another Gathering song which tends to be forgotten- it may not be as memorable as many other,s but when you hear it after a while in the wilderness, you are reminded of its quality- the cut off guitar solo which descends into an anarchic distorted mess of noise, the drums, the surprise of the chorus.

`Locked Away’ is the most straightforward song on the second side, a simple structure albeit with subtle building of sounds and instruments. It remains mostly a verse chorus verse affair, but one with some heavy guitars, catchy melodies, and typically brilliant vocals.

`Probably Built In The Fifties’ features good drumming once again, distorted vocals and strained guitar sounds. Anneke shows of the power of her voice here on the chorus, something she doesn’t get the chance to do much on this album. The chorus is quite and uplifting one when compared to many other tracks on either side of this album- it is one which the listener can scream along out of tune to. There is a quiet middle part here which sounds like a fade out until the guitars come back in menacing fashion for a classic Gathering doom influenced finished.

`How To Measure A Planet?’ is the longest song the band have recorded, although song probably isn’t the correct term to apply to it. It has more in common with something like Revolution 9 than Shine On You Crazy Diamond. At over 28 minutes it is filled with sound bites, strange sounds, and doesn’t have much of a structure. It is the band at their most experimental and it doesn’t always pay off. When the drums come in almost two minutes into the track you would be forgiven for thinking it was all going to build up into something monumental. Unfortunately for most of its length it doesn’t seem to go anywhere, and maybe that is the point. It is both an apt ending given the epic and challenging nature of the whole album, but also infuriating given that the rest of the album is so good. The track would work better live, with the band simply jamming, sounds coming and going and the audience being entranced. While listening to the album this would be the one to skip. Of course there is much to recommend it as with any other Gathering song- there is good guitar work, it sounds like the band are in a trance themselves and enjoying that fact, and at times it teases you into thinking it is going to burst into another classic moment. Most of the middle part of the track is very quiet, just a swirling soft sound. Perhaps a shorter, more condensed version would have worked better.

The band’s most adventurous album yet sees each member in fine form- although the band experiments with different genres and does things which no-one expected them to do it is almost always good. Anneke’s lyrics are greatly improved, the music is mostly more subtle and there is a wider range of songs. We get to see other instruments taking the lead rather than simply relying on Anneke and Rene. Once again this was a step in a new direction as the band would go further into unknown territory for their next album, becoming even more ambient and less reliant on traditional rock and metal rules. Many rules are broken here, so many fans couldn’t cope with the change. Many new fans were gained as people who had no interest in metal gained appreciation for this ever evolving and intelligent band. Not only does this feature some of their most ambitious work, it also features some of their best.

The Gathering – Souvenirs

Souvenirs sees the band in almost commercial territory- shorter songs with more simple structures and at times some pop melodies. However, the overall tone is dark- possibly the sole trace remnant of their metal days. The guitars rarely take centre stage, Anneke’s vocals have a shadowy quality, and many of the songs with some slight alterations could be considered as dance music. Anneke’s lyrics have again moved to new levels, many songs taking on more artistic and poetic merits, while the remix feel of many of the songs ensures that the band sound a million miles away from the one which recorded Mandylion, a billion miles from the Moonlight Archer days. The main thing to note is that with all these changes the music is style of the highest quality and there are a few classics here. A band can grow and change and become unrecognizable from what they once were, but as long as the music is good, regardless of genre, regardless even of personnel, we should not care.

`These Good People’ introduces us to some dance style drums and sparsely constructed songs compared to previous albums. Anneke’s voice is as good as ever, but there is a new maturity here. The piano and drums are of highest note here, the haunting vocals and sound effects creating an ambient but dark atmosphere. The lyrics are quite angry and while we still have the traditional quiet interlude it is now marked by techno sounds rather than guitar parts.

`Even The Spirits Are Afraid’ begins with a classic drum and vocal intro. The ominous growing background noise and some excellent bass work serve to further the dark and threatening mood which permeates the entire album. Again the lyrics have an angrier edge than ever before, suiting the almost barren music perfectly. There is some good guitar work here, Rene showing growing talent as a musician not happy with simply re-recording variations on the same twiddly solos. It is never more clear that the band are in a league of their own.

`Broken Glass’ continues with the dark mood, with surging, metallic sounding guitar sounds while Anneke sings as if from inside your head. The band retains their strength for a good melody, and the reverb filled distant guitar parts from second verse add dimension to what Anneke is doing. Rene does a bit of Greenwood style guitar playing before the songs breaks down into a short bass section and back around again. Once again the band have complete mastery over what they are doing; the conclusion is a joyful noise with echoes, distortions etc clashing together.

`You Learn About It’ has become one of the band’s most famous songs and remains their most commercial. It is a gorgeous song, an utterly beautiful ballad with peerless vocals from Anneke, steady drumming from Hans, and a wonderfully tender guitar part from Rene. Boeijen’s piano here is also key and Geerlig’s bass underplays everything. As with most songs on the album there is a tinge of sadness but mostly it is a glorious ray of sunshine in an otherwise pitch black album. From verse, to perfect chorus, to sumptuous bridge, the soft lyrics sung with flawless emotion it is one of the band’s best songs. For people who wouldn’t like the more metal or heavy parts of the band’s catalogue, this may be the song to play them.

`Souvenirs’ coming after such a ballad is a lively, up tempo song. The drums here are once again great, the guitars finally take a bigger part here sounding oriental, and Anneke does well with some tricky rhythms and timing. When the chorus comes here it is like an epiphany, raising the rest of the song to new heights and we gain new appreciation for easily one of the best singers ever. The lyrics again are improved, the production is almost like a dance record, while the ending is one of Rene’s great pieces of soloing. It all finishes with some swerving bass and effects and blends perfectly into the next song.

`We Just Stopped Breathing’ begins with simple pianos and almost tuneless, somber vocals. This helps to returns the album to the dark side along with the bleak, hopeless lyrics. The spaces are filled with scratchy, chaotic noises while a strange string section in the middle confuses matters further. This may be the weakest song on the album, not particularly memorable, but it does have good use of effects, piano, and trumpet. Anneke however is deliberately underused.

`Monsters’ is sandwiched between the two most downbeat and slow songs on the album, a heavier song with some distorted guitars and bombastic chorus. Anneke gets a chance to stretch her vocal cords on this one while Rene gets to play another catchy riff. The pianos are put to good use again and like the rest of the album the drums are central.

`Golden Grounds’ sounds very dark, with muted guitars, growing yet faint background sounds on top of Anneke’s lowly sung lyrics. There are good melodies here and a creeping guitar line which will stick in the head long after the song is over. I like the final few seconds, lines, and sounds of the song as they are so unexpected.

`Jelena’ is another wonderfully tender and sad ballad, the type which The Gathering seem to be masters at. The song seems to about a suffering friend, the slow beat perfectly complimenting Anneke’s lonely singing. Again the guitars have an oriental feel, at times the percussion sounds like breathing and there are plenty of background noises and piano parts. As is typical for these ballads there is a slight twist with Anneke closing the sing with some bittersweet vocal antics, copying the main piano part.

`A Life Not Mine’ is a rarity in the band’s history as it is almost a duet- Anneke being partnered with Kristoffer Rygg from Ulver. Performing this live she would usually sing every part herself, but the male vocals give a new flavour to the album, an unexpected surprise at the end. The male vocals aren’t too great in themselves, but they sound almost robotic as if they are coming from a radio she is listening to or as if it is her conscience or a memory. The song itself is a good ending, plenty of singable lines, quite dance influenced beats, surging and fading synthesizer, and little or no guitars to speak of.

A new album, another departure towards a new sound. By this stage most fans would have realized that the band would sound different on each new album so the excitement was and is in how they will sound, not if they will be heavy again. This remains their darkest album, and along with `If Then Else’ their most dance influenced. They would continue to sound more commercial or accessible on the next releases but this album had a few successful singles. Although there is not as much variance in this album as on previous ones, the overall sound is consistently strong. Many songs from `Souvenirs’ are played live frequently and they give the audience something other than thumping guitar songs. Depending on your mood each album will have something to suit you; this is the one for bedroom contemplation and solitude and is no less gratifying or valid that the one for jumping around in a crowd to.

The Beatles – Abbey Road

Abbey Road

The last recorded album by The Beatles is filled with a sense of things coming to an end, but also has the feeling that the band still had more to say. Unfortunately the lads would go their separate ways, but thankfully give us a few more decades of new work with new friends. As with any of the last 3 or four Beatles albums it is a mixed bag- glorious highs, infuriating lows, and a mixture of sounds and influences. In many ways it is a back to basics album, low on experimentation but remaining high on invention. The first half is traditional single songs while the second consists of a combined medley of sorts, a few short songs tied together as one piece. Although the band new this would probably be their final album, the signs of a new age are marked by Harrison’s contributions- his songs here are stronger than by the other Beatles and there are more of them than on other albums. There are more ballads and pop songs than the heavier Let It Be, and it isn’t as angry as The White Album. It suffers similarly to Let It Be and The White Album by having a few unnecessary songs. There were better songs written at the time which could have been included instead. Along with Sgt Pepper and Revolver, this has one of the most famous cover pictures ever, looking back now it can be taken as signifying a band in transition, or a band leaving the studio for the final time.

‘Come Together’ opens the album, a bluesy Lennon song with some great lyrics. It has a famous bass riff, some nice guitar work but I find the verse melody too repetitive and prefer the Michael Jackson version. A favourite of many fans it is one I usually skip.

‘Something’ is Harrison’s first song on the album, opening with a fairly famous guitar part. It is Harrison’s most famous work and one of his most praised, by fans, critics, and band mates. A mellow love song with a Pink Floyd feel, it breaks into heavy chorus followed by mellow middle part with strong guitar playing.

‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ is McCartney’s nonsense story of murder, filled with good lyrics and a jaunty Ringo-esque rhythm. It is a catchy song that the rest of the band were not particularly enamoured with and it sounds more like something from Sgt Pepper.

‘Oh Darling’ has a fifties rock’n’roll feel which McCartney screams through. It has a fairly typical blues feel moved along by some strange guitar sounds and heavy single piano notes.

‘Octopus’ Garden’ is one of Ringo’s most loved songs- it has the Ringo rhythm, but has a few nice melodies played over the top along with decent vocals from the drummer. The lyrics are gentle and picturesque, the drowning voices and bubbles adding the cosmic underwater feel.

‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’ is a long, deliberately repetitive song by Lennon. Lennon sings with a heavy angst, and the song reeks of desperation, lust, and blues. Unfortunately it is just the same short song repeated over and over with not enough new parts each time. The sudden end is a nice touch, ending the album without warning; it just comes 5 minutes too late.

‘Here Comes the Sun’ is possibly my favourite Harrison songs, and one of the best from the band. It is a perfect pop song like many of their older tracks; it is bright and uplifting with a superb guitar riff, nice synth work, and melodic singing.

‘Because’ is a Lennon ballad similar is style to ‘Something’, and with a similar structure to ‘I Want You’. The haunting vocals and the synth give a strange tone, one of longing, one of leaving which is expanded in the next song.

‘You Never Gave Me Your Money’ sounds just like ‘Perfect Day’ at the start before breaking down into a more rocking song. There is a good guitar solo chucked in before the song changes in tone and style again to more riff laden one. It is probably the most experimental song on the album, a medley in itself, and the first song in the overall medley of the second half.

‘Sun King’ begins in a mellow, twilight style with a riff floating between both ears. This is Lennon’s trippy twin of ‘Here Comes The Sun’ with gentle, drowsy melodies accompanied by organ. The lyrics break into faux Spanish for the last part and Ringo’s drum fill serves as an outro, and as an intro to the next song.

‘Mean Mr. Mustard’ is a quick, jaunty song by Lennon about a miser, mostly filler and linked to the following song.

‘Polythene Pam’ is based on one of the group’s early fans who happened to enjoy eating polythene. It is quick, short, with funny lyrics and sung in a heavy Scouse accent.

‘She Came in Through the Bathroom Window’ begins seamlessly as the ending of the previous song rather like a lot of the prog albums that were around at the time. The song is slower, McCartney plays lead guitar while Harrison is on bass, and it is based on a time when some of their fans broke into McCartney’s house and stole some stuff. After this there is a soft pause before next part of the medley continues.

‘Gold Slumbers’ begins with soft piano and a growing string section before the bass and drums begin. The verse is in lullaby form, while McCartney growls the chorus vocals as the music surges. It is one of the best constructed songs on the album and one of their forgotten greats.

‘Carry That Weight’ again is a seamless continuation from the previous song, but mixes “You Never Gave Me Your Money’ in a perfectly fitting way.

‘The End’ feels like a rocking conclusion to the album, all chanting and heavy guitars, before a cosmic breakdown begins. This was originally meant to be the final song but due to the attitude of a few engineers, the next song was tacked on.

‘Her Majesty’ does feel tacked on and completely out-of-place. It is a filler which either should have been sandwiched into the middle of the album of left off completely. It spoils the ending of the album, but if looked at as The Beatles joking around it almost suggests that the fun isn’t quite over.

The Beatles would go out on a high, but not at their height. Abbey Road may be surrounded by sadness, but there is also celebration; celebration of what they had created here and what they had already left behind, as well as the belief that each would go on to solo glory. The story was over but the legacy remains for every new listener. This record has a few classics, not as many as on their best albums but is essential nevertheless. In only a few short years the band had become the most important thing to ever happen to music.

Bands I’ve Seen Live – F

Out of the bands I’ve seen beginning with the letter F, there is really only one band I would pay to see, although I wouldn’t have any problem seeing any of them again with the exception of Fat Boy Slim, as that would be horrific.

Funeral For A Friend – I’ve seen these guys a couple of times, always as an opening act of some description. I don’t have anything against them like many people do; yes they are a little whiney but they don’t wear their ‘mummy doesn’t love me’ angst on their sleeves as much as some of their ilk like to, and they seem to pump out the odd decent tune.

Foo Fighters – The band I would pay to see, but given that I’ve had the opportunity to see them several times and only actually paid to see them at a festival, that isn’t saying much. I’ve always like them, right from the start, but I’ve never been a fan; I’ve never bought any of their albums or actively sought them out, but their direct approach to rock and their direct link to Nirvana lends them a special place in my musical thoughts. I saw them at Slane and they were excellent, and I would recommend any rock fans to see them at least once.

Feeder – I don’t have anything against Feeder, I really don’t. It’s just that they’re not very good. I mean, they’ve been around forever but don’t have a lot to show for it. They have a handful of good singles, a handful of very annoying ones, and probably a tonne of decent tracks I’ll never get round to hearing. They are always energetic, and at least they can find a good hook for what songs I’ve heard, but nothing is particularly memorable.

Faithless – Growing up in the nineties I was forced to see my beloded rock and metal genre fall by the wayside as dance music largely took over. As with any genre, metal, dance (all country is terrible) there are an overabundance of useful talents, and only a sprinkling of genuinely great groups. Even to my young, naive thumping bass hating ears, it was obvious that Faithless fell into the latter camp. When I eventually saw them it was a great show with them commanding the crowd as well as any band I’ve ever seen.

Fat Boy Slim – On the other end of the scale are atrocities like this. Hello boeys and gruls, here am a song I am didn’t not ryhte. I put som noyses of myselph banggin a pan aginst an other pan and maid it a number 1!

The Flaming Lips – I saw this lot at Glastonbury not long after the release of Yoshimi which was an instant critical darling. I appreciate the sentiment and the their live shows are always a spectacle, but again they are a band I haven’t got into. To be fair though, I never really gave them a chance so perhaps it is time to do a discography download and see what I’ve been missing. I did get some great, non digital pics of their gig though, just as the sun was setting behind the Pyramid Stage.

Jagged Little Pill – Alanis Morissette

Jagged Little Pill

The album that kick started a million girl with guitar imitators, faux-feminist artists, and brutally honest young things turned out to be one of the biggest selling and best albums of the decade. Alanis had been making music for quite some time, but it wasn’t until she met Glen Ballard and was messing in the studio with this, pouring all her angst, guilt, anger, pain and love out in a unique and frank manner that people began to notice. A few notable big names heard what she was doing, liked it, and helped out in turn creating a word of mouth which would help to create a monster. In truth all the guest musicians have little or no impact here, it is all about Alanis; her words, her music, her feelings her life. We got a fascinating insight into this woman, just an ordinary person who was going through the same trials as the rest of us, except she was belting out these experiences with her heart on her sleeve and her hand in her pocket. Alanis has produced some great stuff since, but nothing has ever come close to the coherence and quality of this album. It had been a while since the pop world had any intelligent, strong music from a woman- the 80s and early nineties were full of pretty throwaway pop mistresses or big breasted nobodies, and sadly it has since gone the same way. For a while though a generation was given a new voice; relive those days with this timeless classic.
`All I Really Want’ opens the album to the strains of a harmonica and some commercial grunge style chords. It introduces so Alanis’ powerful, broken vocals, ear for a catchy melody, and cynical lyrics. She sings of her frustration of love, of independence, and sets the tone for the rest of the album. She doesn’t hold back but makes sure everything is tuneful enough and human enough that we can both hum along and empathize.
`You Oughta Know’ is an all together much darker and angrier song, full of spite, honesty, and the release of freedom. Pop audiences were shocked by such harsh words coming from a nice little Canadian girl, opening the gates for a flood of imitators. Those of us who could understand caught on immediately, and it didn’t take long for others to start singing along and buying. Flea and Navarro add drums and guitar and give the song much desired alternative credentials. This still stands as one of the defining songs of the nineties, along with a couple of others on the album.
`Perfect’ at first glance is much more soft and soothing until we hear the cynical lyrics of pushy parents, failure etc building to an over the top, wailing crescendo of brilliance. Alanis shifts easily from gentle vocals to all out screams, both ends of the spectrum are spine tingling and the lyrics are often brilliant.
`Hand In My Pocket’ is another iconic 90s song with a familiar intro and chorus. Alanis’ lyrics are inventive juxtapositions, singing of defiance and independence, self mockery and hope, and the music is endlessly catchy. Again the guitars mix well with harmonica and her voice shines through- just edgy enough to satisfy the alternatives and cynics, just commercial enough to please millions.
`Right Through You’ begins quite softly, gradually getting heavier and again showcasing Alanis’ anger for those who have wronged her. She may have been on the end of a lot of pain and laughter throughout various relationships but here she tells those that need to know that she has come out on top. This is a lesser known track on the album, but just as good as everything else.
`Forgiven’ is a tirade against organized religion, in this Catholicism and all the guilt and self hatred that can come from having forced upon you. Alanis sings of growing up surrounded by strict measures and a blind necessity to cling to something. The music is fairly heavy to mirror the lyrics and the anger behind them. This, along with Head Over Feet is probably my favourite song on the album.
`You Learn’ was another hit for Alanis, a song portraying her new-age views on life following several traumatic events prior to the album. Self-deprecating yet self freeing she is admitting to us and herself that even good comes from bad and that each experience is all part of the craziness of life. The music has more of a dance beat than the rest of album and the chorus is fairly anthemic. This and MJ are my least favourite songs here, they are notably softer and I think lack the melody of others.
`Head Over Feet’ is my favourite song on the album- perfect pop, eternally catchy with nice lyrics, and a break from the anger. It is well structured, the harmonica makes another appearance and again manages to not be annoying. Most people think of Ironic when they speak of this album, but this is the one I will always come back to.
`Mary Jane’ is my least favourite song, not because I think it’s a bad song, I don’t find the melodies as engaging or the song as memorable as others. Alanis sings well as always, the music is quite light, and the lyrics are ok. It is a bit overlong for a song with quite a simple melody and I would usually skip it, but I’m sure it is someone’s favourite.
`Ironic’ was the big hit which turned Alanis into a superstar, leading millions to sing along, and the odd unfortunate intellectual to moan about appropriate use of the title word. It is basically a commercial grunge song following the quiet verse, loud chorus format, but works because it is performed with great passion, has witty lyrics no matter which way you look at it, and has one of the most memorable choruses of the decade.
`Not The Doctor’ is another track which people ten to forget about, a catchy and clever song where Alanis bemoans clingy partners. Again it follows the soft-heavy-soft format, the lyrics are more interesting than the music but the succession of chords fit the words fine.
`Wake Up’ closes the album (except those with the extra tracks), a well produced song which not many speak of. The riffs and style in which Alanis sings lend a dark tone before the brilliant bridge and chorus, making it one of my favourites. The extended ending is also excellent and can be read as a message to the listener to Wake Up and question everything, drop passive behaviour, be independent, and think for themselves.
`Your House’ is a powerful acapella song where Alanis sings of betrayal and discovering that she is being cheated on. There is irony and guilt as she blames herself showing one of the many dark sides of love, her voice is very strong and she sings with a raw honesty and powerful emotion.
Most people who grew up or were a teen in the nineties will probably own this album- in fact most people who existed in the nineties probably have it going by the sales. With so many great songs this is understandable and for those who don’t have it or know it, it is an important cultural slice of the decade. Before all the cheap manufactured rubbish of girl power (which seemed to equate to the power of wearing no clothes) this was a shining light for intelligent music regardless of gender. Even if you end up hating it, this is still essential listening.

Let It Be – The Beatles

This is either the last or penultimate Beatles album depending on how you look at it, but either way it has a sense of loss and ending throughout. The album is almost more famous for the arguments between members which took place on a daily basis culminating in Harrison leaving and coming back. After not touring for years and pursuing various solo projects, as well as the band’s previous album seeming more like a collection of songs from each member, tensions were high. McCartney felt the group should write, record, and tour together to repair affairs and they should make a no frills, no experimentation simple album as they had before. The other 3 like the bare bones approach, but didn’t like the idea of touring and the film crew following them around every second. In the end the movie is more interesting than the album, while the album is a mix of good songs, throwaway bites, and a couple of classics.

`Two of Us’ is a McCartney song which can either be seen as a tribute to himself and Linda, or himself and John. Beginning with the famous Lennon quote it breaks down into a catchy acoustic ditty. The harmonies hark back to the good old days, the guitar is a gentle folk style, the lyrics speak of happier times, freedom, and nostalgia and features a nice bridge section without a chorus. The easy tone and whistling end suggest that everything in the group was fine, contrary to what we know. It is a good first song let down by a few fillers later.

`Dig a Pony’ is Lennon’s nonsense tribute to Yoko full of pointless lyrics culminating in the chorus where he pours his heart out to his soon to be wife. The false start is famous, the verse and chorus melodies are catchy enough, the guitars are good and Lennon sings in a rough fashion. Again it is not the sound the band falling apart, but definitely shows signs of weariness.

`Across The Universe’ may be the best song the Beatles ever recorded, and it is probably my favourite. Beautiful poetic lyrics which fit the sound perfectly, other-wordly guitars, wonderful simple melodies, an effortless meter for the words to float along, and sumptious production. The Eastern influence is stronger here in theme than in music, yet it is full of strange and foreign instruments. This is the song to play to people who do not yet consider themselves fans of The Beatles.

`I Me Mine’ is Harrisons take on both the egotistical problems of the band and his more personal feelings on wealth, personal gains and rejecting all notions of self for the greater good. The song has a bluesy waltz feel with it’s trumpets and guitars, but bursts into a heavy, rocking chorus.

`Dig It’ is a jam of ideas, words thrown in on the spur of the moment, instruments all jangling together- the sort of thing a band does when warming up or severely intoxicated. The version included here isn’t the best, and again it is throwaway filler.

`Let It Be’ is the most famous song on the album, McCartney’s follow up to Yesterday and superior in my opinion. It isn’t as dreary as it’s predecessor and has more emotion. Again the melodies stand out, full of cadences, the piano suits the sound perfectly and the guitar solo stands out; while it is a rather heavy effect for the song it doesn’t grate or sound out of place.

`Maggie Mae’ is a filler piece, a childhood Liverpudlian rhyme based on a modern folk tale about a prostitute. The tune is ok but it’s entirely pointless and should really have been replaced with something better.

`I’ve got a Feeling’ is another McCartney tribute to Linda, a sign that for him at least things were getting better. Of course there were darker truths as John had divorced Cynthia and Yoko had suffered a miscarriage and no-one was really happy within the band. It continues the blues rock feeling and is more hard edged than most of the back catalogue despite aiming to sound light and optimistic.

`One after 909′ is an early Blues attempt by McCartney brought back to fit in with the overall feel of this album. Written around 10 years prior to this release it shows the American influences on the young songwriters, but also exposes the adolescent songwriting. With all their experience since writing it they managed to turn it into a decent tune, adding plenty of extra riffs and instruments to make it a dance favourite.

`The Long and Winding Road’ is the last classic on the album, a wonderful epic from McCartney which is better due to the production. McCartney’s earlier, simpler version is strong but sounds a bit empty after hearing this. Some say it is over produced, but it is nice for the group to have a song such as this which sounds as if it is backed by an entire orchestra. The lyrics were based on the tensions between the band and a hope that they would all get through it.

`For You Blue’ continues the blues influence with the reference to Elmore James and slide guitar. Harrison’s vocals are perhaps too high for him, and I can’t stand the spoken parts. If it had had a few extra guitar parts or an underlying piano part I think I would like this more but for me it is too light.

`Get Back’ closes the album in rocking style, a good song but another one where McCartney’s vocals annoy me. He creates a story about a couple of lovers, the lyrics are fine, the music is suitably bluesy but it just isn’t a personal favourite.

And so the story came to an end, for a while at least; each member’s solo work features many great songs proving that even if the band was no more the spirit would live on. Record companies would continue to churn out re-issues and greatest hits, but it isn’t until the Anthologies, Blue, Red, and Love that fans had anything new to be excited about. Let It Be ends almost as an opposite to Please Please Me, with four older, more tired, more cynical worn out men belting out some great songs with a more weighed down enthusiasm. If you’re only getting into the band now, start at the beginning and work your way through. You’ll be smiling by the end.


If you liked/hated this, feel free to check out my other Beatles reviews in the music section.  

Alice Cooper- Hey Stoopid

Hey Stoopid

After all the mostly poor efforts of the 80s and coming off the success of Trash, Alice Cooper released their 2nd best album (and probably my favourite) with Hey Stoopid. It brought the best of 80’s metal and hard rock (owing much to G’n’R) and mixed it with Alice’s trademark style, lyrics, and imagery. We had his heaviest album so far (this remained true until Brutal Planet), filled with thrash style guitars, bluesy but not over the top solos, some of his most memorable ballads, and some of his greatest anthems. Alice had a long history of blasting out classics teen and outsider anthems, from I’m Eighteen to School’s Out but here we have my favourite with Wind Up Toy. The most famous song is undoubtedly Feed My Frankenstein, made popular by its appearance in Wayne’s World but it is bookended by even better songs. With plenty of backing and guest musicians and Alice’s lyrical if not musical creativity in high gear, Hey Stoopid is one of the most underrated rock/metal albums of the early nineties.

`Hey Stoopid’ opens the album with a typically 80s fist pumping and chanting intro before dismembering the cheese and breaking out some heavy riffs and chords. It’s as if Alice was replying to all the rubbish hair rock and metal of the previous decade (which he had some part in) and blasting through it with his authentic punk and rebellious roots. Perhaps he wanted to regain some of the respect he may have lost during the decade at the same time as answering his critics, perhaps he just wanted to follow other bands of the time and make a no-nonsense heavy record. The lyrics speak of rehabilitation and making your own decisions without the backing of the crowd. Hardly the most original of sentiments, and indeed Alice said the same before. Slash and Satriani help out with guitar duties while Ozzy provides some backing vocals. Alice would repay the favour soon after by singing on Use Your Illusion.

`Love’s A Loaded Gun’ is a pseudo-ballad, a slightly softer song mixed with a dirty, bluesy sound. The themes of prostitution, love, betrayal, and murder/suicide are typical for Alice as he weaves another grime filled story. I prefer the lyrics to the music on this one. The acoustic verses give way to a louder chorus, each backed with some screaming guitars and Alice sings with trademark irony and venom.

`Snakebite’ opens with the sound of a rattlesnake before bursting into one of the albums most evil and vicious souding riffs. The heavy guitars continue throughout and the chorus is very catchy. Alice creates another character and weaves the story of a tattooed lover who may be murderously possessive. Snakebite is one of those songs for turning up loud when you’re driving at night with the hot air blasting in your face, and it wouldn’t be an Alice Cooper album without some snake references.

`Burning Our Bed’ is another song which features Joe Satriani and is probably the best ballad on offer. It begins a linked trilogy of songs (with the next two obviously) and speaks of the pain and recovery from lost love. It is highly atmospheric thanks to Alice’s whispery vocals and the guitar effects. The verses are nicely acoustic and build up to another catchy chorus. I particularly like the emotional bridge and guitar solo which help to prove that Alice is one of the most underrated writers of love songs (as well as every other type).

`Dangerous Tonight’ has an extended, ominous intro merging with Burning Our Bed and features some of the album’s best guitar work. Really if you’re a fan of flashy guitars without the self indulgence then this is an album for you. The organ/keyboard intro overlapped with the menacing guitars is one of the best introductions of any Alice song. The lyrics are quite darkly erotic with an undercurrent of S and M. The imagery is not overly imaginative but all serves to create a tense atmosphere and the solo and chorus is full of head-banging opportunity. In fact the solo here is one of my all time favourites, not because it is particularly skilful or lightning fast but because, like Leaves by The Gathering, it fits the song so well.

`Might As Well Be On Mars’ also has a brooding, atmospheric intro leading in from the previous song and ending the trilogy. I love the way the piano and thunder start together before leading us into a dark and lonely tale of stalking, self-delusion, and invisibility. I like the verse riff although this is another song where the lyrics are better than the music, even though the music is pretty great too. Alice acts out the story with his vocals as always, straining with desperation and irony. The middle section with its string section and synth somehow becomes anthemic even though it is a song about being alone showcasing his skills as a songwriter, before descending with the obligatory solo and an extended ending where the character fades away back into the dark alley and despair from whence he came.

`Feed My Frankenstein’ is a song dually by Alice and British band Zodiac Mindwarp and is noticeable not only for appearing in Wayne’s World but for it’s sexual lyrics and messed up guitar solo by Steve Vai. Nikki Sixx provides bass here adding to the overall sleazy feeling, and Alice sings in his most ugly, dirty style. Yet again the chorus is a sing-along affair, something which was lacking for most of Alice’s 80s albums. It tool Poison from Trash to remind the group where their greatest strengths lay, in writing crowd pleasers which were smarter than those the average band would churn out.

`Hurricane Years’ is one of the lesser songs on the album but is still pretty good. There are no poor songs on display, it’s just that this and another couple pale in comparison with the rest and sound a little too 80s. I rate the chorus here highly and the overall tempo is fast with some good shredding from Vinnie Moore.

`Little By Little’ has a great introduction continuing the ominous tone, but is let down by a cheesy chorus filled with background cheers and a slow and fairly uninspiring verse. The whole song sounds grimy enough and the sexual lyrics work well speaking of the games lovers play, but it just isn’t as strong as other songs.

`Die For You’ is another excellent little ballad marked by a wonderful guitar riff and some sweet and touching lyrics. The piano over the verses keeps the song light but as is the way with this album, when the chorus starts you want to jump around the room like a mad man. The song again speaks of recovering from a break up and the sheer amount of physical and emotion destruction it can wreak upon you. Alice manages to turn these emotions into a powerful and almost celebratory anthem proving again that he has always been a songwriting force to be reckoned with.

`Dirty Dreams’ is the third less memorable song for me, the melodies aren’t as exciting as others and again the chorus seems a bit cheap. Again the sleaze meter is high showing that this incarnation of Alice was a rather dirty old man. Despite the Sex Pistols introduction it becomes just an average rocker.

`Wind Up Toy’ may well be my favourite Alice Cooper song ever, it is definitely my favourite (what I would class as) anthem ever, and it is one of the best endings to any album I can think of. With it’s scary sounding child’s toy introduction giving away to one of the great riffs, from Alice’s vocals from the point of view of a possibly sociopathic child (yet getting us to side with him), from the themes of madness, anger, loneliness, and a desire to be both free and included, to the excellent chorus and terrifying ending it is genius. The character of Steven re-appears (who all Alice fans will be familiar with), the lyrics are touching, child-like, and imaginative, the drums make you want to pucnh the air no matter how terrible a notion that is, and the guitars scream all over the place, but in all the right places. The ending to the song is one of my favourites, haunting, funny, brilliant- everything Alice should be remembered for.

So, if you enjoy hard rock and metal, or if you’re sick of all the current trend of indie nobodies and bland, unimaginative screamo bands then you should like this. Even if you are the sort who smirks at the slightest mention of Alice Cooper with an (un) knowing irony you should listen to this with an open mind- if you are a genuine music lover and not a fashionista you will find something you like here. It may not have the invention of early Alice, it may lack some of the smarts of his biggest albums, but it is full of energy, great ideas, and sublime tunes. Get it now.

As always, feel free to comment- agree, disagree, share any memories of the album which you may have.

Favourite 36 Guns n’ Roses Songs


For anyone who reads this list I’m sure there will be a mixture of disgust, appreciation, and annoyance. Good, make your own list. I’ve tried to include a few tracks from every album and while Chinese Democracy is still fresh in my mind and hasn’t exactly stood the test of time yet, this is a fairly accurate current list. If I was doing it by importance, or how much I’ve adored the individual songs over my life then there wouldn’t be any CD or TSI tracks here, and additional ones from AFD and UYI. As always, feel free to comment, ridicule, and provide your own favourites.

Just a note on GNR – they were the first band I ever got into, and everything I’ve listened to since then has been because of the impact they had on my early life. They looked so fucking cool, they swore, they fought, they were smart, pissed off, and they could play the most raw, amazing music at break-neck, effortless speed – everything an 8 year old boy could want. Before then my music was limited to Michael Jackson devotion and whatever crap was in the charts, but suddenly I was on my way to a life of hard rock, grunge, metal, and eventually everything else good. Soon I was learning guitar, writing music, djing in metal bars, and having groupies praise me for simply breathing. So thanks GNR, especially for the songs below.

Mr Dizzy Reed

36. You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory (The Spaghetti Incident): A fine dedication to Johnny Thunders and one of few songs worth mentioning on the ill-fated The Spaghetti Incident. Like most of their covers, this is given the G’n’R crunch, and is notable for being one of the few tracks that Duff has lead vocals on. It’s a fairly tame song in comparison with the rest of the punk overhauls elsewhere but one of only a handful you’re likely to return to.

35. Cornshucker (Lies):  Ok, this didn’t see an official release, but if you’re a fan you owe it to yourself to hear it at least once, if only to hear the original line-up sounding like they used to, and enjoying it. An incredibly juvenile song, about anal sex, the whole band get in on the act -singing, shouting, so it sounds more like an orgy than a song.

34. Ain’t It Fun (TSI): A seering cover of a little known punk classic, Axl and Hanoi Rocks guest Michael Monroe compete in whispers and growls and conspire to make a self-fulfilling prophecy concerning the near-future of the band.

33. So Fine (Use Your Illusion II): Another Duff tribute to Johnny Thunders, this is as gentle as GNR would ever get, even if they still manage to rock in the chorus. A largely piano-led track, it sounds like an early crossover of Civil War and Knockin On Heaven’s Door taking ideas and cues from both tracks to create a strong standalone.

32. Shadow Of Your Love (Lies): Another unreleased one, Shadow is another breathless early track, filled with fury and that exciting exhuberence which marked the band apart from others on the scene at the time. Axl’s yelp is on full form, the chugging power chords and thunderous drums compete for prime place, and there is a nice bluesy, tipsy solo.

Steven Adler

31. Since I Don’t Have You (TSI): Just to top off the weirdness of TSI the first song off the album is a cover of a gentle 50s soother and the video stars Gary Oldman chasing the band around a swimming pool. Imagine Dirty Dancing starring Guns n Roses and you won’t be too far away from understanding the song. It has a charm, but I remember when I first heard it I thought the band were buggered. Turns out they were. Still good though.

30.  Dead Horse (Use Your Illusion I): I’ll probably say this a lot on this list, but a number of songs get easily lost under the sheer mass of the UYI albums. Dead Horse is one of those, but it warrants a re-visit thanks to a sneering attitude similar to 80s GNR and it doesn’t suffer from the overblown nature of many other tracks spread over the double disc. Great intro, rockin’ verse and chorus, good stuff.

29. Locomotive (UYI): Probably the forgotten epic of the two UYI albums, this is a hard-rockin, bluesy rambler with a few thousand too many lyrics, and one which does fittingly feel like being both on, and pummelled by a Locomotive. The song builds and repeats itself over the course of over 6 minutes before stumbling brilliantly into one of the most perfect breakdowns you’ll ever hear; the bass and drums fall away to the sound of Axl’s dying wail, and all are replaced by a wonderfully dark piano and lead guitar led piece. Axl comes back in with a single mournful line while the rest of the band eventually re-group and jam for the remaining couple of minutes.


28. Prostitute (Chinese Democracy):  Chinese Democracy is definitely a strong one; a misunderstood work of myriad genres and ideas, and unquestionably weaker than the band’s high points. Nevertheless, it’s still Guns N Roses (of a sort) and is a powerful album at times. A love song entitled Prostitute ends the album, and while Axl’s new vocals sound bizarre if listening as a standalone, if listening to the album as a whole you should be well used by now. With dancey drums, a groovy string section, and the albums soaring guitars, this is a great track. A self-mocking lyric (which Axl is so good yet) and a merging of crushing volume and tenderness, as well as a beautiful final 90 seconds mean this is a stong end to the album.

27. This I Love (CD): While many of the heavier songs on CD don’t hit the mark, most of the quieter songs do. This tear-jerker would be cheesy if Axl didn’t sound so earnest and broken. It’s another hair-ripping song of love slipping away, set to Axl’s lonely piano piece, more subtle strings and woodwind than you would expect from the band, and broke up by a bruising guitar section. This I love indeed.

26. Mr Brownstone (Appetite For Destruction): Probably the first song on the list that the more casual fan will recognise, this effortlessly cool depiction of addiction and excess is both brutal and engaging. The problem with music this good is that it’s so easy (sorry (sorry)) to ignore the words/message (if there is one).  Like much of AFD this is iconic stuff – the opening moments and the main riff are the stuff of rock legend, Axl struts through the verses and shrieks the choruses like a man possessed, while the rhythm guys keep everything in check.


25. My Michelle (AFD): One of the lesser known tracks from AFD this is another sordid tale of the wrong side of the tracks, with down-and-out characters sctratching and biting their way to the top, or if not the top, their next easy ride or hit. More lyrical brilliance from Rose is mirrored by huge 80s guitars and drums. It’s a groovy cousin to Mr Brownstone.

24. Nice Boys (Lies): A belter, this one is played at a billion miles an hour, with all the hunger and frenzy of a murderer on the run. The lyrics are the usual early Guns stuff, not that you’ll make them out anyway, it highlights the band’s punk roots whilst showcasing their ability to make a dying genre insteresting again.

23. Reckless Life (Lies): Like its partner above, this is a live stormer with an Iron Maiden intro, Aerosmith swagger, and carefree, reckless attitude, all thrusted into our stomachs like a spear from a Rhino. It’s fast, the melodies are saved for the chorus, and Axl is at his blistering best.

22. Knockin On Heaven’s Door (UYI): A wonderful cover of a dreary Dylan classic, this is more touching than any other version, though we could do without the reggae live version please. For a while, GNR were masters of overturning songs and making their covers the definitive version – here the blending of somber verses, triumphant choruses, and big guitars stand proud.

21. Back Off Bitch (UYI): This is one of those songs which is rarely played live, or remembered, but it really could have been a single. Sure, there is the usual misogynist edge, but show me a GNR song which doesn’t have something distasteful, even in their singles. It’s short enough to have been a hit, it’s punchy, has a singalong chorus, although I’m sure there would need to be an unfortunate radio edit. It sounds like a missing track from AFD, and the song was around for a few years before it was released. A quick search on youtube will turn up some early versions from around ’87-88.


20. Madagascar (CD): Long before Chinese Democracy was ever released (and it still feels strange saying it has been) this was the song everyone was talking about. For fans of their more epic stylings, this was supposed to be the follow-up to their biggest and best songs, a new Kashmir, a new November Rain. While it doesn’t hit those heights, it is still a strong song. I only wish it had been recorded when Axl’s voice was at it’s peak, as I’m not sure it suits his new vocals. It starts off with great promise, with those somber trumpets sounding potent and sorrowful. Indeed, I think that introduction is the best moment in the song. Axl adds a great tormented strain to his vocals here, but it sounds a little too rough rather than natural. We weave through the verses and choruses before hitting a breakdown filled with samples and soundbites at 3 minutes, including a reminder of Civil War. This section has some good moments too, and it’s an interesting addition to their catalogue, and here it sounds most like Kashmir with an oriental style string backing and wirey guitars. I think after this section there should have been something new, something to take the song into a different direction for a couple of minutes, but instead we just get the chorus and end. It’s a good song, but after it was built up so much I feel it is missing something to make it truly great.

19. Get In The Ring (UYI): A critic’s favourite this. Axl’s ego goes into overdrive as he imagines, Uwe Boll style, kicking the crap out of all of the enemies of the band inside a wrestling ring – critics, reviewers, haters in general, all those opposed. I have a nostalgic fondness for this one, as it was always good fun to snicker along to it whenit was played in the car with my parents. Sometimes they would turn it off and spark and arguement. It was the first song I heard which contained so much swearing, and even now it takes some beating. Sure it’s puerile and juvenile, but the band did have a point – being a target for all manner of criticism, much of it unwarranted. Luckily, the song is filled with strong melodies and kick-ass music, so you can lookpast all the mother-fuckers and bitchy little asses. There is a strong, bluesy introduction before the song quickens and gets into it’s stride, and similarly the outro is memorable. A solid all round rock monster.

18. Double Talkin Jive (USI)

17. Civil War (UYI)

16. Live And Let Die (UYI)

15. Street Of Dreams (CD)

14. Welcome To The Jungle (AFD)

13. You Could Be Mine (UYI)

12. Catcher In The Rye (CD)

11. Sweet Child O Mine (AFD)


10. Better (CD):

9. Estranged (UYI):

8. Nightrain (AFD):

7. Don’t Cry (UYI):

6. Paradise City (AFD):

Axl Rose

5. Coma (UYI):

4. Rocket Queen (AFD):

3. Patience (Lies):

2. November Rain (UYI):

1. Think About You (AFD):


Feel free to ridicule or praise my list, offer some comments, and share your top ten.

With The Beatles- The Beatles

With The Beatles

With The Beatles is the inferior follow up to Please Please Me bogged down by average covers similar to the ones that stopped the predecessor from being a classic. That said, there are some terrific originals and plenty of signs that the songwriting partnerships are getting stronger. Harrison writes his first song also which is a good if not outstanding contribution, and Ringo even sings well on I Wanna Be Your Man. The album gets off to an excellent start, but has an average middle section before saving itself with a few good tracks towards the end.

`It Won’t Be Long’ kicks off the album in stonking style, full of call and response vocals, and plenty of `yeah yeahs’. It is a high tempo rocker from Lennon which has both an interesting middle section and ending typical of the Beatles songs of this time. These sorts of flourishes prevented what were essentially simple pop songs from becoming monotonous verse chorus verse types. It shows that the group were trying new things and pulling influences from all types of music into their own.

`All I’ve Gotta Do’ has a distinct Motown feel given a moody tone by Lennon’s vocal and features yet another middle section. The lyrics speak of a powerful, lustful relationship where either party simply needs to call the other, and they will come over.

`All My Loving’ rounds off the opening trilogy of great songs in a fast paced style and is notable for the interesting guitar strumming style. The lyrics are similar to PS I Love You in that they are in the format of a letter being sent to a loved one. A simple tale of faithfulness and love to a partner when being away.

`Don’t Bother Me’ is Harrison’s first song for the group and is a departure from the love songs the others had been writing. It speaks of a need to be alone, and the depression, confusion, desire of reconciliation etc which we feel after a split. It features a jazzy, Latin feel and a strong staccato guitar solo.

`Little Child’ in some ways continues the sullen feel with the `I’m so sad and lonely’ lyrics.

`Till There Was You’ is the first cover on the album and is based on a Broadway song. It is a gentle ballad which fits McCartney’s voice but it is made annoying by him singing ‘Saur’instead of ‘Saw’. Picky maybe, but it gets me every time. George’s plying is pretty good here lifting the song a great deal.

`Please Mr. Postman’ is one of the better covers the band ever recorded and could be seen as the definitive version. Lennon adds to the natural pleading tone of the song with his yearning, desperate vocals.

`Roll Over Beethoven’ however is one of the lesser covers and is less interesting than the original. The whole song sounds like a bit of a joke when they play it and you can almost hear the gang laughing as they sing.

`Hold Me Tight’ is a fine song, but is pretty forgettable. It struts along at a fair pace but lacks any interesting guitar playing and while repetitive is still an ok album track. Any song which features clapping though instantly annoys me.

`You Really Got a Hold on Me’ is another poor cover which doesn’t seem to suit Lennon or Harrison’s vocals. The Michael Jackson version is probably the best as it properly conveys the emotion of the song, while Lennon simply sounds drunk.

`I Wanna Be Your Man’ gets things back on track and is probably Ringo’s best song. It is fast, heavy, with some impressive guitars and shrieks that would blow off a mini skirt at a hundred paces. Simple lyrics and a pretty simple tune with no frills, but done with such energy that it can’t fail but be enjoyed.

`Devil in Her Heart’ is a strong cover and repeats the jazzy, Latin feel of previous tracks. Harrison sings it well and the more cynical lyrics also mirror a few other tracks. The guitar playing is nice throughout and the melodies make it fairly memorable. One of the good early ballads.

`Not a Second Time’ is an ok album track, marked by matching guitar and piano playing and again features cynical lyrics, this time sung by Lennon. The melody throughout is catchy and the ending fades out nicely.

`Money’ closes the album with dual piano and bass/guitar and is probably the best version of the song. It features a few screams and fits perfectly with today’s fame hungry world. Not their best cover but an ok end to an ok album.

Overall With the Beatles is a step down for the band if not a step backwards. There are plenty of great moments, but too many fillers prevent the album from being mentioned in the same breath as those which would follow.

As always, let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Bill And Ted’s Bogus Journey: Party On Bill! Party On Ted!

Die Hard 2: Die Deader

Will and Ted’s Bodacious journey is an existensial trip through themes of mortality, religion, time, Heaven and Hell, man’s quest for fame and his fears of the body being overcome by a soulless machine. It is the most intelligent work of fiction since Paradise Lost and references many great past works of art- Dante, Iron Maiden, Virgil, Shakespeare. This time the dudes are a famous rock band having travelled through time collecting icons from the past- Napolean, Joan Of Ark (Noah’s wife), Oscar Wilde, and Charles Darwin. They took the skills they learned from each of these people, abducted a couple of Princesses, and finally learned to play their guitars and write hit songs. These songs teach the world to love again and war, hunger, evil are vanquished for eternity. We fast forward into the distant future where an evil dictator who despises good music called Simon Cow-Al wants to rule the world. He eats Rooshus (the cool guy from the first film who helps Bill Playboy Esquire and Ted Theodore Alvin) and gains the power to send two cyborgs back in time. The cyborgs are living tissue over metal exoskeleton and coated in memetic poly alloy allowing them the survive the turmoil of time travel, and they can imitate anything they sample by physical contact. It is their job to Kill the good Biff and Fred and take over their lives by making terrible music that no-one could like. By doing this they will change the world forever- Gryll and Jed’s music will never be made leaving a world of war, famine, and hatred, and more annoyingly, bland boy/girl group pop music. There is a startling twist as the good guys actually are killed and they have to work out a way to save the world, themselves, and their wives from the evil Dopplebangers inhabiting their bodies.

Penelope Spheerhead shows her knowledge of both youth culture and real culture by mixing modern day music and phrases with post modern sets and artistic references, and seeks to teach us all something by delving into our very psyche to show us ourselves. She presents the nightmares which faced the late 80s teen in a society which had abandoned them and beckons us to dissect the post structuralist jingoism, self love, and malaise of the time. Charging us with a belief that we can indeed change the world it is an inspiring message, but in oeder to achieve such dreams we must traverse and indeed face our nightmares. To overcome is to succed, to defeat Death is the first step in truly living and not merely surviving. In the words of Kenneth Reeves- ‘Wow!’

Best Scene: For a fun game- see how many songs, bands, and albums cover references you can spot throughout the film. There are at least 6.