‘The disaster isn’t coming/it’s already arrived’
‘The disaster isn’t coming/it’s already arrived’
Greetings, Glancers! The last time we spoke of Madonna, she had released her most controversial and sexually charged album to date – Erotica. It was fine, and while I loved many of the ideas, most of the music didn’t make my nuts tingle. With Bedtime Stories, Madonna wanted to remind fans and the population at large that she wasn’t merely some orgasmic vixen but that she had other layers and furrows – like we all have. As you would expect, the album was yet another major success and proceeded to break new ground for Madonna while influencing later artists. But what do I think of it? Looking at the track list I see the album garnered four singles, though only one of them I can remember from the name; I’m sure once I hear some of the others I will remember them too. As always, listen along, weep at my thoughts, and drop your comments below!
‘Survivor‘. Beeps. Drum sounds. Voices. I don’t think I’ve heard this, but it’s very 90s RnB. Different sound from anything she had so far. It’s quite plain and tame actually. I don’t think the melodies would lodge in my head.
‘Secret‘. Guitar. Noise. Vocals. Better melodies. I was about to type that I don’t recall this, but the chorus sounds familiar, pretty sure I have heard that piece at least. I do like the different direction of sound, but neither of these two songs are emotional or melodic enough to grab me on first listen.
‘I’d Rather Be Your Lover‘. Portishead. Falls apart at vocals. Better in verses. Sexy without being as obvious as the last album. It doesn’t make the melodic impact again. Disaster rap. As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t recognise many of the song names, possibly that’s because the album didn’t have any obvious hits that I would remember 20 years after the fact – and we tend to most readily remember songs with melodies which have an impact.
‘Don’t Stop‘. 90s RnB pop beats. Oh dear. Terrible lyrics. No, absolutely awful lyrics. This one is trying to be sexy, I think, but it’s juvenile and clueless. Nothing positive to say about this one I’m afraid. There’s about 100 seconds of material here, yet the song is almost five minutes long. Sort it out.
‘Inside Of Me‘. Sex breath. Let your mind conjure some images from that phrase. At least this one feels sexy. A strange girly voice. Better melodies. Lyrics don’t appear to be about sex, more about sadness and hope. This is the best song yet, though that isn’t saying much. Still, it’s another good Madonna song that I wasn’t aware of.
‘Human Nature‘. Screeching RnB. Express yourself, don’t repress yourself. Yes, but more importantly – don’t be a dick about it. Sweary lyrics. Another new voice. A reaction to the public reaction to her last album? Or related to some relationship? So, good lyrics, silly music, melodies of no consequence.
‘Forbidden Love‘. More slow, smooth beats. Even though I don’t like a lot of these songs, the Production is always right on the money for the period. It’s another case of bland versus followed by a marginally better chorus. She sings with a more traditional Madonna voice this time around. The first part of the chorus hints at something great, but it fizzles out. This is one of the better songs on the album so far.
‘Love Tried To Welcome Me‘. Hiss. Strings. Good? Guitar. Jangles. Promising. Smooth RnBeats. I feel like this would have had more impact if it had a different production or backing music. It’s already stripped back, but those beats don’t really work. This one is quite sad, quite good, and the chorus is fine. Doesn’t reach the heights. Feels like a good one for a rainy day window view.
‘Sanctuary‘. Words. Familiar melody. More beats. Odd pipes. Bass. Quite unusual, though quite nice. Mysterious. A lot of songs on the album don’t feel like Madonna songs, maybe because these are not straightforward, simple pop songs like we are used to. More spoken words. The melodies are a little repetitive here, but still hypnotic.
‘Bedtime Story’. Throb sounds. Sex sounds. Portishead again. More threatening tone. Back beat. Feels like a centerpiece. There’s the dated beats. It does feel sort of dreamy in a warm, sultry, heroin snuggly way. It’s all monotone though. I don’t mind this one, has the shadows, has the nice dark tone I love for night driving with the warm air grooving, or drifting off to sleep in a daze.
‘Take A Bow’. Ah, I know this one. It’s quite sweet. It feels like a tacked on song to the end of a darker album. Still it ends up being a highlight for me. It’s quite funny how different this is in tone from everything else. I like this one – I can’t see it changing anyone’s world, but there is an innocence, a Michael Jackson vibe, and easy hooks.
Looking at the cover art and with the backlash from her previous album I was expecting this to be a more mainstream, melodic, pop-based affair, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. This is a dance album, ‘bedtime’ simply means sex, and none of the songs really work as obvious singles, outside of the final track. Credit for continuing to experiment and try different things but it’s not to my tastes. Most of the songs are too… empty? There isn’t any emotion or enough variance – experiment all you want, but you still need something to pull people in and keep them. The album was a success so clearly I’m in the minority. Since when has anyone listened to me anyway?
Let us know in the comments what you thought of Bedtime Stories. Is this one of Madonna’s best, or are you a n’fan (not a fan)? Next up it’s ah… it’s Evita. Don’t cry for me, but I really don’t know much about the music from it, aside from the pun I just made. I think I’ll listen only to the actual songs, not the other guff that is probably included too. Adios!
By the balls of Trump, it has been a wanky wanky long time since I’ve done one of these never-to-be-read shambolic rants. Rather than randomly selecting a Chart song I don’t know, lets kick things off by picking a song I actually know!
Sia – Cheap Thrills
I love Sia, but I cannot abide that muppet Sean Paul. Has Sean Paul ever made a good song? Or has his presence ever made a song better? The answer to both is nein. His voice is the same as the sound two robots make when they have just discovered porn and want to try it out. His voice is like shitting a magnet when you have shrapnel in your ass. His voice is the literal projection of the thoughts of an Alt-Right loon. Sean Paul, his voice like a thousand wasted dreams, like a bunion crusting over; Sean Paul, like an oft-reported hate crime; like a three-legged trolley. Enough.
I quite like this song, not nearly as much as her other hits and many others on her albums, and it would be better without that other dickhead’s warbling – it’s a bit of fluff, not like the usual incisive and emotional tracks she pens, but we all need some fluff in our life from time to time. Lyrically it is very simple and doesn’t vary from any of the other hundred songs released every year about dancing and all that junk. Naturally, no-one (himself included) has the faintest notion of what Sean Paul is actually saying. Sean Paul, with his voice like a mysterious soup pube.
Up with it, girl. Rock with it, girl (Sia). Show dem it, girl. Bada bang bang. Bounce with it, girl. Dance with it, girl. Get with it, girl. Bada bang bang. Come on, come on, turn the radio on. It’s Friday night, and it won’t be long. Gotta do my hair, put my make-up on It’s Friday night, and it won’t be long.
Till I hit the dance floor (bada bang) Hit the dance floor (bada bang) I got all I need. No, I ain’t got cash, I ain’t got cash But I got you, baby (just you and me). Baby, I don’t need dollar bills to have fun tonight I love cheap thrills! Baby, I don’t need dollar bills to have fun tonight I love cheap thrills!
But I don’t need no money U worth more dan diamond, more dan gold. As long as I can feel the beat, Mek di beat jus tek control I don’t need no money. U worth more dan diamond, more dan gold. As long as I keep dancing. Free up urself, get outa control.
Come on, come on, turn the radio on. It’s Saturday, and it won’t be long. Gotta paint my nails, put my high heels on. It’s Saturday, and it won’t be long. Till I hit the dance floor (bada bang) Hit the dance floor (bada bang) I got all I need (Sia). No, I ain’t got cash, I ain’t got cash, But I got you, baby (just you and me).
Baby, I don’t need dollar bills to have fun tonight I love cheap thrills! Baby, I don’t need dollar bills to have fun tonight I love cheap thrills! But I don’t need no money U worth more dan diamond, more dan gold. As long as I can feel the beat Mek di beat jus tek control I don’t need no money.
U worth more dan diamond, more dan gold As long as I keep dancing. Free up urself, get outa control. Me and you, girl, you and me. Drop it to di floor an mek mi see your energy because Mi nah play no hide an seek Wah fi see di ting u have weh mek mi feel weak girl.
‘Cause anytime u wine an kotch it Di selector pull it up an put it pon repeat girl. I’m nah touch a dollar in mi pocket ‘Cause nuttin in this world ain’t more dan what u worth. I don’t need no money U worth more dan diamond, more dan gold. As long as I can feel the beat Mek di beat jus tek control I don’t need no money.
U worth more dan diamond, more dan gold As long as I keep dancing. Free up urself, get outa control. Baby, I don’t need dollar bills to have fun tonight I love cheap thrills! Baby, I don’t need dollar bills to have fun tonight I love cheap thrills!
But I don’t need no money U worth more dan diamond, more dan gold. As long as I can feel the beat Mek di beat jus tek control I don’t need no money. U worth more dan diamond, more dan gold. As long as I keep dancing Free up urself, get outa control La la la la la la la (I love cheap thrills!) La la la la la la la (I love cheap thrills!) La la la la la la la (I love cheap thrills!) La la la la la la I love cheap thrills
Also, girls. And rock, girl (she). Show it, girls. Bada bang bang. So bounce, girls. And dance and girls. It gets along with the girls. Bada bang bang. Come and turn on the radio. It is Friday night so it will not be long. Please do my hair and make it on Friday night. It is not long.
I play the dance floor until I hit the dance floor (bada bang) (bada bang) I got everything I needed. No, I do not have cash, I do not have cash, But I have you, baby (you and me). Baby, I do not need dollar bills to enjoy tonight, I like cheap thrills! Baby, I do not need dollar bills to enjoy tonight, I like cheap thrills!
But I do not need money more dan diamonds, more worthy of dan gold. As long as I can feel the beat, Mek di hit jus tek’s control. I do not need money. More valued Dan diamonds, more Dan gold. As long as I am dancing. Release urself and gain outa control.
Come and turn on the radio. It’s Saturday, it will not be long. Please paint my nails and put my high heels on. It’s Saturday, it will not be long. Before I come to the dance floor (bada bang) I hit the dance floor (bada bang) I have everything I need (Sia). No, I do not have cash, I do not have cash, but I have you, baby (you and me).
Baby, I do not need dollar bills to enjoy tonight, I like cheap thrills! Baby, I do not need dollar bills to enjoy tonight, I like cheap thrills! But I do not need money more dan diamonds, more worthy of dan gold. Mek di hits jus tek’s control as long as I can feel the beat. I do not need money.
As long as I continue dancing, more dan diamonds, more worthy of dan gold. Release urself and gain outa control. Me and you, girl, you and me. I see your energy, so I see your energy I have meh feel a weak girl.
Because you are always taking wine in a glass. I have not touched a dollar in mi pocket. Because the world ‘s nuttin is not worth it any more. I do not need money more dan diamonds, more worthy of dan gold. Mek di hits jus tek’s control as long as I can feel the beat. I do not need money.
As long as I continue dancing, more dan diamonds, more worthy of dan gold. Release urself and gain outa control. Baby, I do not need dollar bills to enjoy tonight, I like cheap thrills! Baby, I do not need dollar bills to enjoy tonight, I like cheap thrills!
But I do not need gold more dan diamonds, more Dan gold worth. Mek di hits jus tek’s control as long as I can feel the beat. I do not need money. More valued Dan diamonds, more Dan gold. As long as I continue dancing, I love cheap thrills! La la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la cheap thrill! ) La la la la la La I love cheap thrills.
You know, I probably could have translated from English into English and returned similar results. Sia is renamed ‘She’, which I’m sure ‘she’ would appreciate, and ‘it gets along with the girls has the vague air of a stalker to it. Rather than being a song about getting ready for a night on the town, the opening sounds more like a young, robotic geek in the 1930s becoming over-excited in advance of their favourite radio serial coming on the air.
The next section clearly references an annoying child being hyper at a disco, playing too hard, falling and hitting the ground hard – getting exactly what they deserved. The child wants a new toy to make them feel better, but mumma ain’t got no cash to buy anything and instead attempts to impart a valuable moral and financial lesson – that you can have fun without money (a lie). Also, I don’t know about you, but in my neck of the woods a cheap thrill refers to a sexual act, usually something like a dry hump in an alleyway, or some pocket billiards at the back of the class while looking at your teacher. I have no idea who Dan Gold or Dan Diamonds is, sounds like one of those online comparison sites or converting your precious metals to cash scams.
It’s Saturday now, and still suffering the effects of the previous night’s excesses, our heroine needs help getting ready. Oddly, she seems to be experiencing a Casual Loop or predestination paradox as she somehow hits the dancefloor before actually getting to the dancefloor. Unless this is some elaborate metaphor for already dancing and getting in hte mood long before you actually reach the club. Later, the stalker evidently returns and is frightened off by the girl’s ‘energy’ and instead moves in on an easier target – ‘meh feel a weak girl’.
The final section is a caustic and frank look at poverty, as the narrator exclaims in amazement that people actually put wine in a glass, and bemoan the fact that they haven’t had even as much as a dollar in their pocket. This life has driven them to suicidal thoughts – ‘the world ‘s nuttin is not worth it any more’. Yet, those cheap thrills still have an allure and rather than throw it all away, the narrator appears to void their senses and drifts away with a multitude of ‘la la las’. It’s a fun song taken to unexpectedly dark places.
Let us know in the comments which songs you would like to see be badly translated!
Greetings, Glancers. As you’re probably aware if you frequent this place, I have been revisiting the sounds of my childhood and filling in the gaps of those artists I used to listen to, but who have since made albums which I haven’t heard. The main artists in this series are Bryan Adams, Madonna, and Bon Jovi – massive artists whose songs have been a part of my life, but whose many albums I may not have heard all the way through. As I near the end of this journey, I realised there was one more band who I used to listen to al lot in my youth – mainly because they were my older brother’s main choice for long car journeys. If you already read the title of this post, you’ll know that band is Roxette. If you didn’t read the title, then surprise – that band is Roxette!
As I say, they were my brother’s choice so there was a fair bit of ribbing and mocking going on between us. In truth of course, I’ve always had a thing for high emotion and power ballads and Roxette have more than a few of these in their discography. Looking down their studio albums, there are at least four albums I have zero knowledge of and one which I have maybe heard one song from. I am more familiar with their earlier albums as those are the ones my brother had, but I can’t say I’ve listened to any of them since around 1995. Of those 5 albums, maybe 1 or 2 of them I have not heard all the way through. In other words, these posts will be filled with memories, some good songs, some naff songs, and hopefully a few hidden gems. Lets start from the top with their 1986 debut Pearls Of Passion.
Looking down the track list of the album, there are maybe only two song titles I recognise, but I’m sure I’ll remember a few others. Don’t bore us, get to the chorus!
Soul Deep: Drums, I Am The Resurrection. Trumpets. Woo oooh yeah. High, powerful vocals. I remember pieces of this. The chorus is kind of catchy, it’s a light, fun pop song but nothing memorable.
Secrets That She Keeps: Fading in, whirling vocals. 80s drums and twinkling. Wah oh waohwaohah. Catchy verses. Per chorus. Typical 80s pop, bound to fill anyone of a certain age with nostalgia, even if you haven’t heard this. I remember this one too. Key change. Guitar solo. All showing their ability to write a good hook, which they would hone and perfect in next albums.
Goodbye To You: Fast drums. More 80s sounds. Goof, fast paced vocals and verse melodies. Blending of Marie and Per. You don’t get double acts like this anymore. A perfectly good chorus. I don’t remember this one, but it’s my favourite of the three songs so far.
I Call Your Name: Drums and funky bass and guitar. More atmospheric 80s stuff, that little burst of synth underneath everything else. The chorus is simple, just singing the title a few times, but I like the melodies. It’s another good one -no crap songs yet, not too much cheese to date things, the melodies could be transported into a more modern form and the songs would be as strong. No killer song yet, but consistently good.
Surrender: More twinkling. More 80s drums. More atmosphere. This one sounds familiar. Per leading the vocals for now. Guitar now and bigger beat. And now Marie takes the lead. The voices do compliment each other, even though for the most part they don’t sing together – each take their own section. I can imagine this playing over any number of 80s movies.
Voices: Synth. Lots of synth and keyboards and atmosphere. Rich in mood. Good bridge. Good chorus (both voices together). Why did so many songs in the 80s talk about ‘border lines’? This is another good song, though they missed a trick by not adding in one more melody in the chorus between the ‘ooh oohs’ – I can hear it in my head and it fits perfectly.
Neverending Love: Keys and 80s drums and muted guitar. The verses and bridge don’t really work, but the chorus is good enough. This one does sound pretty cheesy, even for me. Drums and overall sound changes in the middle instrumental section.
Call Of The Wild: Synths like a pan pipe, and you’ve guessed it – atmosphere. More frequently changing melodies. None of the melodies do much, the chorus puts in a decent effort but it doesn’t quite pull it off.
Joy Of A Toy: This is one I recognised from the title only. It’s a faster paced song compared to the last two, and those minor hooks work well – the ‘woo oh’ in the bridge for example, and the chorus melody is okay. There are moments in the synth intro which remind me of the desert levels in Mario 64.
From One Heart To Another: Starts like a ballad. Both singers together. Gentle. Synth, drums, and Per for the first verse. Now Marie takes the verse. Together for the chorus. All very nice. Of course it’s cheesy, but it feels genuine.
Like Lovers Do: Faster paced, sounds more fun and lighthearted. More sharing of vocal verse duties. Nice absence of drums for the pre-chorus. It’s fairly catchy, like a few of the others.
So Far Away: Last song. Slow. Moody. Uppy downy synth. Slow drum and some sort of sitar noise. Great chorus with great vocals. The verses aren’t anywhere near as powerful, but are possibly deliberately underplayed to heighten the chorus. What was that lyric? Matron. Marching drums.
All in all this was a better debut album than I was expecting. Like the four other artist I have covered so far in my main Nightman Listens series (Bowie, Jovi, Adams, Madonna), I was expecting this to be an average affair with only minor hints of what the artist would later produce. This has all the hallmarks of Roxette already in place, and while they would go on to write much bigger and better hits, many of the songs on this first album are enjoyable pop rock. This makes me more excited to see what comes down the line, especially when we listen to their biggest albums and of course those recent ones that I know nothing about. Let us know in the comments if you have heard Pearls of Passion and what your thoughts and memories are of it!
Greetings, Glancers! I was in two minds over whether to include this in my Bryan Adams series because it is a soundtrack album. I remember mocking this quite a bit when it came out – the movie looked pretty bad, and here was Bryan Adams singing an entire album about horses. What could possibly go wrong? Well, I’ve decided to include it because I haven’t heard any of it before, aside from some early promo stuff. I’m already listening to his other albums to I may as well dive into this one. Who knows, maybe I’ll be surprised?
‘Here I Am‘. It sounds familiar. Yes, this must have been the single. I have heard this. Doesn’t seem to have anything to do with horses. Annoying turn of the millennium drums for the chorus. Still, I like it. Catchy, sweet, inoffensive, fine. Even a little solo in there. Goes a little wonky towards the end with bizarre backing vocals and unnecessary padding.
‘I Will Always Return‘. Opening with evocative piano and wind. Ballad. Yearning. Nice melodies. Nice bridge. Nice chorus. Nice all round then, and short too.
‘You Can’t Take Me‘. Carpenter synth. Where did that come from? Well, it didn’t last long, as we break into some weird 80s rock noise. Verse okay, still sounds like it was written in the 80s. Good melodies though, I like it. Could do without that strange 80s instrumental piece though. Gets more punchy as it goes along.
‘Get Off My Back‘. A light rock start. Fun. Upbeat. Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough. Sounds again like a standard Adams rocker. Fairly plain, but nothing bad. Like meh, but not as negative. I usually hate whistling in songs, but that last piece was catchy.
‘Brothers Under The Sun‘. Atmosphere. Dream sounds and words. Strings and synth. More nice melodies. Eerie. Similar melody and mood to Little Susie. The lyrics here are hopeful and positive, which doesn’t fit with the music but adds a deliberate melancholy. Pretty good.
‘Don’t Let Go‘. Synthy start. Soft again. Is that Dido? Or Sarah Maclaclan? McLachlan? Who knows. Verses a little plain. Chorus a bit better – nice again, not memorable on first listen. Sarah or whoever singing more. Seems a little padded too.
‘This Is Where I Belong‘. Whip noises. Growing. Voice and piano. Didn’t we play this one already? Maybe the lyrics are similar to a previous track. Nice again. That seems to see a recurring vibe – nice, gentle. There are a few songs left, and while nothing has been bad yet I’m already feeling this could really have been an EP as the songs are now at risk of running into one another.
‘Sound The Bugle‘. Synth. Sparkliy twinklies. Sad piano. Seems very similar to something I’ve heard elsewhere. Is this movie all death and despair? So many of the songs are on the darker tone of average. Good melodies. Soft. Quiet. Second chorus brings the noise. And strings, yay! A very odd sudden end.
‘Nothing I’ve Ever Known‘. A single guitar. Sad. Nice. Lovely. Verse not as good as intro. Okay chorus, veering awfully close to Blunt territory.
So, I skipped the Zimmer tracks and some of what appear to be reprises or shortened versions of the tracks above. I don’t feel too bad for laughing at the time of release, but of course it was unjustified. The songs here are good – none are going to change my world and I doubt I would listen to any of them again, but I wouldn’t turn them off or tune out if I hear them. It has made me want to watch the movie though. So, nothing memorable for me, but nothing bad – just a nice collection of movie soundtrack songs. Let us know in the comments what you think of this soundtrack. Share your favourite movie soundtracks too, and let us know if the movie is any good!
*Originally written in 2004
Progressing from Guns’N’Roses as `The World’s Most Dangerous Band’, Eminem burst into middle class homes across the world as `The World’s Most Dangerous Musician’. His first album was vulgar, crass, offensive, full of foul language and obscene lyrics, it covered taboo subjects, and was full of violent imagery involving fights, drugs, and guns. Naturally it sold millions and terrified parents and politicians everywhere. The critics failed to see the underlying reasons for the success; it was clever, full of energy and invention, and packed with great music. The Blond rapper from Detroit had a lot to live up to for his second album, not that he cared, and with The Marshall Mathers LP he created a monster, surpassing his first in every way- it is shocking in its violence, hilarious in its unashamed attack on celebrity, musically intense and original, and is easily one of the albums of the decade.
`PSA 2000′ opens the album in similar style to the Slim Shady LP. It sets the tone for the rest of the album with Eminem’s trademark humour and attitude coming through. For those who don’t know it is a spoken word announcement proclaiming how he doesn’t care if you hate his album
`Kill You’ has an ominous tone throughout with it’s dark, yet funky bass and screamed vocals. It covers a multitude of topics deriding those who criticize him, especially those who see him as a violent influence to their kids. Naturally he responds by saying he will kill them. Lyrically it is much angrier than anything in the first album- the dark side of fame has struck him and he raps about the hypocrisy of radio stations, TV shows etc whose ratings are bad so they invite him on expecting controversy. This is a strong first song which sets the darker tone of the album, with only subtle hints at humour 6 foot underneath.
`Stan’ needs no explaining as it was one of the biggest hits of the decade. On first listen it was a revelation- a brilliantly clever story, flawlessly written lyrics and music, it’s haunting chorus which blends seamlessly into each verse. The story of a disgruntled and psychotic fan going too far again shows the down side of fame, how becoming an idol brings shadowy responsibilities that you either don’t want or release you had until it was too late. Unfortunately as it became such a big hit thanks to certain big Radio stations with 1 in the title who played it roughly 48 times a day it lacks the impact it once had. Of course these radio stations played a severely censored version and on top of this Dido inexplicably became popular. Her song which was sampled in Stan is bland and poor when heard on its own, but as part of Stan it works effectively. Now that her song has been played to death it unfortunately gives a second knife in the back of Eminem’s epic.
`Paul’ is another funny spoken insert, featuring someone’s reaction to hearing the album. At only a few seconds long it is throwaway material but still great fun and the album doesn’t sound whole if who skip it.
`Who Knew’ is a more juvenile version of Kill You, mixing funny lyrics and ideas with satirical and harsh ones. Again he explains his hatred of the hypocrisy of American parents, media, and politicians who have blamed him for everything to murder, suicide, and the decline of the American youth. He explains his side in a clever way, replacing the elegance of rhetoric with his own unique blend of madness. Musically it is fairly simple, with a slight bass beat in the background and some synth style strings which are reminiscent of, ironically, Psycho.
`Steve Berman’ continues the spoken interludes and features a record company producer/suit who hates the album. As always it is done in a jaunty style with some funny background music as Eminem sets himself up as a `me against the world’ figure.
`The Way I Am’ is as close to soul baring and honesty as we get on the album, another angry attack on fame, those who hate him and those who love him a little too much. He spits out the words with venom and typically doesn’t hold back. Musically it is as melodic as he gets, with piano and bass mixing together and some church bells in the choruses which add a dark tint.
`The Real Slim Shady’ was the first big hit off the album, similar to what My Name Is in commercial sensibility and melodic and lyrical content. A circus like loop repeats throughout, the chorus is a huge sing along favourite, and the verses are a hilarious destruction of celebrity. He speaks obviously of the split personality which people see in him, and of the thousands of imitators who started to appear, and his anger over being mentioned by other vacuous types now because he’s famous.
`Remember Me’ features various guest rappers, mostly rapping about themselves and their own experiences. This is more typical rap than Eminem’s own work on the album, features great lyrics but fairly bland stoner noise. Eminem’s verse is the best of the lot and raises the song by virtue of his delivery. There is more name dropping, more screaming, and more goodness.
`I’m Back’ sounds quite commercial with its memorable lead line and catchy chorus. Again the target is fame and the hounds which follow whoever is the flavour of the month. Again he dismisses all the nonsense, and injects plenty of humour into the lyrics with various imaginings and one-liners.
`Marshall Mathers’ stands out with Kim and Stan as a classic- musically and lyrically it wreaks of brilliance and is swamped with emotion. The confessional lyrics speak of further pitfalls of success- how family members he never knew now come to see him. He covers, Axl Rose style, many objects of his rage from boy/girl groups, useless celebrities and whoever else stupidly falls under his radar. Of course it is all tongue in cheek, but you can taste the annoyance from his relationships with his mother and wife and accusations of selling out now that he is `a big star’.
`Ken Kaniff’ is the final spoken word piece, and the best/worst depending on which way your wind blows. It involves a sexual encounter between 2 characters which ends badly when one mentions Eminem. Juvenile and funny the first time, but not integral to the album.
`Drug Ballad’ has a funky bass line helped along by some female vocals throughout. Eminem speaks of his love of drugs and booze which has become an addiction. He speaks of various experiences as well as what will happen/is happening if he doesn’t stop. The chorus is as catchy as the singles on the album, the lyrics are clever although will be disagreeable to most.
`Amityville’ isn’t one of the best songs on the album. Lyrically it is tongue in cheek, but this time it sounds more like it is trying to offend just for the sake of it. Rather than targeting something genuine and slicing it apart, Bizarre and Eminem find everything taboo and recite like a love of exploitation. Musically it isn’t very memorable, although the ending has some nice additions.
`Bitch Please II’ gets back on the musical tracks with some nice background sounds and catchy melodies. The guests (Dre, Snoop) are more effective this time, the lyrics are more direct with each member adding their own flavour. Silly in parts covering the pride of gangsta stories but with all the humourous content you can’t possibly take the content seriously. As with the rest of the album though, the style and music must be seriously respected.
`Kim’ is the best track on the album, absolutely brutal in content and delivery, heavy metal in style in attitude, emotion, pain, and anger dropping from every word. Every word is shrieked in a demented way, shivers will fly up and down your spine, the chorus is catchy, the guitars and piano are haunting, and the words are utterly horrific. Basically he imagines taking his wife out of the city and murdering her after she cheated on him, the lyrics delivered with frightening authenticity. There is no humour in stark contrast to the rest of the album, it is basically 6 minutes of harrowing rage ending with the sounds of a body being dragged away. Within a few seconds you will forget that you are listening to a song; one of the best songs of the decade.
`Under The Influence’ features D12 rapping along to one of the most memorable melodies on the album, and an extremely infectious chorus. The lyrics are on the `lighter’ side, full of vulgarity and humour and as with the rest of the album pretty offensive if you don’t realize the tongue in cheek nature.
`Criminal’ is another song with South Park-esque humour (and references). Eminem raps about the criminal life that certain areas of society believes he is part of. Murder, bank robberies, kidnapping etc are all flown through with jolly glee, but the message is all about freedom of speech versus conservatism and red faced commentators who have never actually listened to the music.
Eminem’s second album was a huge chart success as well as being a critical favourite. On the flip side the inevitable controversy was huge with celebrities, parents, politicians, fellow rappers, women and gay rights’ groups all ganging together in disgust. There is plenty here to offend, but whether or not it should not be listened to is a futile question given that there is so much to enjoy. It is undoubtedly one of the most important and best albums of the decade bringing hard edged rap into the mainstream, giving a well deserved slap in the face to watered-down music of all genres, and a wake up call to all artists to raise their game or get left behind. Hypnotically weaving its way through the various part’s of Eminem’s psyche it is best to simply relax and enjoy. If you are easily offended you won’t listen and probably won’t be reading this; for those who are not will be treated to an album full of force and aggression, but with a lot of heart, humour, wit, and skill too.
*Originally written in 2006
This ‘between albums’ release is a large collection of live, alternate, and demo versions of some of the band’s biggest songs, as we as some covers that many fans may not have heard. This double album is interesting for the more avid fan but I wouldn’t recommend any new listeners getting this first. Some of the live versions give an idea of how the band like to have fun with their performances- changing parts, adding parts, or playing with an orchestra, and some of the demos are useful in highlighting how a song goes from initial idea to completion. Perhaps the best songs here are the few covers- they tell us of the band’s influences and when played feel like originals by The Gathering. This is a good collection but it isn’t essential by any means.
In Motion 1 Live: This live version of the Mandylion classic has an extended introduction with a sound clip which sets a tone of night time- I’m not sure of the relevance but adds something different to a song they perform every night. The song is not quite as heavy as the album version, just one guitar here and the sound quality is fairly distant. Anneke sings strongly, not showing any flaws or fear from being outside the recording booth.
Leaves Live: This blends in seamlessly from the previous song and is as good a live version as you will get anywhere. The musicians are all on top form, occasionally making a few changes and having fun on stage while Anneke again blows the front row back a few feet. The only problem is the same as the last song, that it seems too distant, maybe it’s the lack of crowd noise or maybe it’s that the volume isn’t high enough. Either way, the solo is still breathtaking and glad to see Rutten doesn’t resort to any Malmstein-esque twiddles with it live.
Adrenaline: This is the best B-Side the band has done and it’s tragic that it never appeared on any of their first albums with Anneke. I assume that it just sounds too upbeat and up tempo to fit in with the darkness of Mandylion and NB. Looking past that though, it has been a live favourite since its first play, and is one of their few songs that really gets the crowd jumping and dancing at speed. Lyrically it is nothing out of the ordinary, but melodically it is brilliant, musically catchy without being flashy- fairly heavy with crunching chords and synth but mostly free of solo work. Anneke gets a chance to wail and scatter her voice all over the place and everybody gets to smile.
Third Chance Alt: I’ve always seen Third Chance as the darker partner to Adrenaline, the album version was very good but this is exceptional. It is quick, angry, filled with urgency, but mainly stands out because Anneke sings in a higher register than on the NB. The notes she reaches and the style in which she does is enough to make me grin and shiver every time and I would recommend it over the album version every time. The quiet middle section and build up to the ending is all the more effective now because of the higher register, the ominous synth, and the urgency of it all.
Strange Machines Live: It is a bit of a come down after the energy of the previous song to hear this. The Gathering are a great band because they are constantly trying new things, not only with new songs but with their classics. Like Metallica’s S & M, they get a full orchestra involved here to play possibly their most famous song. Also like S&M, it should work brilliantly but doesn’t. Maybe it’s the sound quality, but it just sounds flat, almost empty. There is none of the energy of the album track, and certainly none of the energy from their normal live plays. Part of my problem is that the brass is the main focus, whereas I much prefer strings swelling in from all sides. This could all be personal preference and it may well work for you, but I don’t think it woks like it should.
In Power We Trust The Love: This Dead Can Dance cover is one of the few cover songs I’ve heard which makes me search out the original band- I think the Gathering version is better if only because the song suits Anneke so well. An ethereal, soothing number which builds through various phases- the type of song The Gathering have been making throughout their career except with this we get some great lyrics, something which is rarely a part of the Dutch band’s repertoire.
When The Sun Hits: Being a big Manic Street Preachers fan, I suppose I should hate this Slowdive cover. I’d never listened to that band before I heard this cover, but it’s pretty good. The Gathering is known for downbeat sounds, if not quite shoe-gazing, so again this suits them. Again it is interesting to see Anneke sing some different lyrics, the type which the band would never write. The song has a sleepy quality and is one of the better ones in this collection.
Confusion: This demo from the EROC sessions isn’t too dissimilar from the final version on NB. The sound is slightly more tinny, and Anneke’s voice sounds like there are more effects on it. Aside from some additional synth and slight differences you are on familiar territory.
Shrink Alt: This version of Shrink is played on strings rather than piano, has lots of background sound clips, and has a dual vocal from Anneke.
Frail Live: This live version of Frail is pretty similar to the album track, soothing guitars and flawless Anneke vocals.
Cyclist: This instrumental theme for ‘The Cyclist’ movie is interesting as it doesn’t particularly sound like anything the band has done before. Having not seen the film I can’t see how well it works, but as a stand alone piece of music it is fairly good, lots of brass and percussion with a lead piano part. I like the string section coming in towards the end, but it isn’t a track I would listen to often.
Leaves Orchestra: Like the earlier Strange Machines this doesn’t always work, although it has a much more bombastic feel to it. It sounds like Anneke enjoys competing for prime position with the full band behind her, and some of her vocals are strained to extremes. I’m not a big fan of brass taking the lead so personally this isn’t a favourite, plus this cuts my favourite part from the original- the middle guitar solo and end.
Life Is What You Make It: This Talk Talk cover is the weakest cover in the collection, mostly because the original material isn’t as strong as the others. Nevertheless it is a decent song which sounds like a slight departure from what the band would usually play. There is a nice messed up guitar part in the middle, and lots of drum based effects and Anneke sings as well as always without having to try too hard.
Amity Live: This is an average live version of Amity let down mostly because Anneke sounds drained and here vocals aren’t great, especially towards the end. Mostly it is musically the same as the album version, with some different effects.
New Moon, Different Day: This opens the second disc- rarities. There isn’t anything too startling or exciting here, a slightly different version of the one we all know.
Kevin’s Telescope: This instrumental abandons the darker intro of the final cut and instead focuses on the light melodies of the verse and the emotion of the chorus. If the vocals were added it still wouldn’t be too different.
Shrink: This seems to be a slightly more up tempo take on the song, and the piano tone isn’t as dark. This is pretty good but again not anything surprising.
The Earth Is My Witness: We are on familiar ground with this one as not much seems unusual. There are a few differences- guitar parts, effects etc, but the structure of the song is the same.
Diamond Box: This is quite an odd one – an instrumental with plenty of effects and sound clips. The main part reminds me of a computer game level set in a dank sewer, or something with a slightly Eastern twist. For some reason it reminds me of Banjo Kazooie. It’s worth a listen but it isn’t one I come back to often.
Nighttime Birds: The main difference here is some background guitar work and less dense effects. Otherwise the song is the same length, same style.
On Most Surfaces: Again this is very much the same as the main version, a slightly more swirling and extended introduction and background guitar work being the main differences.
Hjeimar’s: This is a strange instrumental piece which consists entirely of some eerie guitar work. Just as it sounds like it is building towards something it is cut short. I’d like to hear what the band could come up with by extending this short piece.
My Electricity: This is a strange version of My Electricity with low sound quality but some nice dual vocals. The accompanying guitar seems too metallic though to fit (even though it is acoustic).
Probably Built In The 50s: This is another odd take on the original with Anneke’s voice being heavily cropped, and with some extra distortion on the guitars. This is quite a bit different from the original and is worth a few listens to appreciate the differences. Some great singing and a high tempo middle.
Illuminating: This version is slightly shorter than the main one but is mostly similar in sound and style. The introduction features different drum sounds and the synth isn’t as deep and brooding.
Red Is A Slow Colour: This is a much more distorted take on the original, with clipped vocals and less subtlety. The chorus is different as the guitar tone changes from distorted to a twang, and rather than the effects beats we get some interesting chord strumming and odd background phaser sounds. There is also a strange middle interlude with all manner of noises clashing together- a nice sign of the experimentation which would go on to make the finished album a classic.
Travel: The band like trying different things with their songs, especially when played live and Travel is one which is constantly tweaked. This version is completely different from the final one- it sounds like a very early version as many of the lyrics are missing. Mostly it sounds like a heavier take on the second half of the complete song, but extended to over 7 minutes.
This is definitely a collection for existing fans only as I don’t see anything here which would particularly charm any new listeners. Most of the demos and alternate takes are the same, with a few additional instruments and lower sound quality, but some of the outtakes and B-sides are interesting as they show the band’s creative process. For the live versions I would stick to the main live DVDs and CDs, or better yet catch them live if they ever come to Britain again. For a band with such talent I wish they would have recorded more B-sides and covers but that seems to be a dying art. This is a good album, but too long to listen to repeatedly- just pick your favourites.
If you have heard Accessories, let us know your thoughts in the comments!
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