‘The sentinels are watching/As the world closes its eyes’
Greetings, Glancers! At the start of these My Blog posts, I usually go on about my feelings about the month I’m posting in, or what nonsense is going on in the world, but I’m not going to do that this time. Instead, I’m going to jump straight into a new fun challenge which probably thousands of people have done before, but which I’m going to do now. It’s a simple Playlist creator challenge. Make a playlist which broadly encompasses your musical tastes, but you can only choose one song per artist. Simple! Me being me, I’m doing a double album. What’s the average, or best, number of songs on an album? Twelve, right? So a double album equals twenty four songs. Me, still being me, added the caveat that it should flow like an actual album, not like a random collection of songs or greatest hits. So I grabbed my iPod, had a quick gander for 24 of my favourite artists of all time, and picked 24 songs before painstakingly putting them into a logical order – should the album fly out of the traps with a banger, or ease you in gently?
Now, these are not my favourite 24 songs of all time, or necessarily my favourite songs by the particular artist, because the idea is that you share these playlists with your friends on Spotify or whatever things people use these days. With all things, I’m doing this at a rush, and will likely miss out some people and later think ‘wtf, Nightman’ but there you go.
Feel free to add your playlists in the comments, share with your friends, have a go if you think you’re ‘ard enough. You don’t have to do a double, just give it a go. Please. Please?
- Basil Poledouris: Battle Of The Mounds
2. G’n’R – Nightrain
3. The Music – Getaway
4. Led Zeppelin – Stairway To Heaven
5. Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here
6. Tori Amos – Winter
7. Gemma Hayes – Something In The Way
8. The Gathering – Eleanor
9. Metallica – One
10. Nirvana – Territorial Pissings
11. JJ72 – Bumblebee
12: Muse – Knights Of Cydonia
13: Michael Jackson – Wanna Be Startin Somethin
14: Sia – Bring Night
15. Eminem – Kim
16. Radiohead – Paranoid Android
17. Alice Cooper – Halo Of Flies
18. Opeth – Marrow Of The Earth
19. Alice In Chains – Nutshell
20. Natalie Imbruglia – What’s The Good In Goodbye
21. The Bangles – I’ll Set You Free
22. Nightwish – Ghost Love Score
23. Iron Maiden – Fear Of The Dark
24. Manics – A Design For Life
There you have it. Turns out I went over my count by a few, and had to drop the likes of The Beatles, Koji Kondo, John Williams, and many others. But I think that looks like a decent set – there’s your banging intro section, a little acoustic interlude, a collection of more dance oriented ones, and a crowd-pleasing finale. Share your lists too – what does the 12 or 24 track Greatest Hits of your life look like?
Reminder on blog links:
A-Z Reviews: This category is a sile post with links to all my movie, music, and book reviews. It’s the best place to start and you can check it via THIS LINK. I try to update it regularly.
Amazon Vine: I’m a member of Amazon Vine, a program where Amazon’s best reviewers are provided with free products for reviewing purposes in order to drum up publicity before the product is released to the general public. You can find links to the Products I have received here.
Book Reviews: Something I don’t really do anymore, even though I still read plenty. I need to get back into this, but movies are so much easier to review. Maybe I’ll come up with a different format.
Blogging: A new category! This is where I’m going to put this exact post, and the others like it to follow.
Changing The Past: This category is where I go back through every Oscars since 1960 and pick my winners from almost every category. I pick my winners from the official choices, and then I add my own personal list of who I feel should have been nominated. It’s based on personal preference, but it’s also not based on any of the usual Academy political nonsense and I bypass most of their archaic rules. It’s not quite me just picking my favourite films, but it’s close.
DVD Reviews: I should probably just change this to Movie Reviews. It’s what you would expect – reviews of the movies I’ve watched. I’m not a big fan of reviewing every new film which comes out – there are a billion other blogs out there all doing the same thing. I don’t often watch new movies as they release, unless they’re streaming, so instead you’ll be getting reviews of those films a few years later, once I get around to them. Here you will find horror, actions, classics, foreign, indie, sci-fi, comedy, drama – everything. A word of warning – I frequently post reviews that I wrote almost twenty years ago when I didn’t have a clue – they’re crap, but I add them here in all of their badly written glory.
Essential Movies: I’ve only published an intro post for this category, but I have written some other posts for the future. I’m basically questioning what actually makes a film Essential, because it cannot be a definitive statement. What’s essential for you, may not be for me, so I’ve broken down the definition into a few generic user types, then gone through some lists of the best movies of each year to see which ones are essential for each viewer. It’s pretty boring, and I already regret starting it, but that’s me.
Foreign Cinema Introduction:
This category hasn’t been published yet, but once again it exists and I’ve written a bunch of posts for the future. The idea came from my many years of hearing people I know IRL or on the internet dismissing anything not mass-produced by Hollywood. If you only watch movies made in the USA – you’re not a movie fan, it’s as simple as that. I follow a few Facebook fan pages and blogs on WordPress which completely dismiss foreign movies – it’s ridiculous as you are missing out on many of the best films ever made. More than that, you are missing out on films which I know for a fact you will adore. So, this is me breaking down all that bullshit about subtitles, about foreign stuff being boring and every other excuse you’ve ever heard, while giving some very basic thoughts and introductions of the various countries of the world from a film perspective.
Lists: Here I post lists – some with comments, some without. All sorts of lists – from monthly previews of the year’s upcoming movies, to my favourite movies by actor or director, to best horror anthologies, best Christmas songs and TV shows, best movies for Halloween, my favourite episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, my ranking of Bond movies, songs, and girls, my favourite albums by decade, my favourite songs by artist, bands I’ve seen live etc. I love lists.
Manic Street Preachers Song By Song: One of the first reasons I started this blog was to try to spread the Gospel of my favourite band, especially as they are not well known outside of Britain. Defo not in the US. Then I found out there were other blogs doing it too. Ah well. These are my thoughts on each song. Don’t know them? They are a Welsh rock band who have been around since the late 80s, early 90s. They are highly political and intelligent, on the left wing, and they are probably the finest lyricists in the world. Their main lyricist suffered from various addictions and mental health issues and disappeared in 1995 – although there have been sightings, nobody has ever confirmed they have seen him and no body has ever been found, though the band, fans, and family are still looking. After three albums with him, they suddenly became commercially successful after his disappearance. If you like rock music… if you like music in general, please give them a try.
Music Reviews: This is the same as movies, except for music. Reviews of albums I’ve always loved, as reviews of albums as I’m listening as a virgin. I take a look at the Top Ten UK Charts from a random month in each year and review each song, while giving my own alternative ten songs from the same year, I am reviewing albums that I’ve never heard by artists I am familiar with – filling the gaps in those discographies. I’m listening to spin-offs of my favourite bands, I’m reviewing the Disney soundtracks. I was a metal and grunge kid, but also had a love for the best in 80 pop when I was young, so I like to listen to anything though since around the mid-noughties chart music has gone from extremely bad to entirely worthless.
The Nightman Scoring System ©: This is something I truly love, but something which nobody really pays attention to. You’ll notice in my reviews I don’t give a score. I just talk about the thing I’m reviewing. Scores are arbitrary and when given, people jump to the score and form a conclusion and a bias. If they read the content of the review, there will be a better discussion. That made me think, in a very unprofessional, semi-scientific, ill-examined way, to come up with a fair, universal scoring system which tries to avoid personal and systematic bias as much as possible. If you look at sites like Rotten Tomatoes which are stupidly becoming reference points for quality or to convince you to watch something, or used by advertisers, it’s a completely flawed system. Anyone can post whatever they like, and drag down or push up an average. The same used to happen on IMDb. There are a lot of posts online recently about the disparity between Critical and Audience consensus on RT and it leads to more worthless arguments, because if there’s something the world needs more of these days, it’s people fighting online about pointless stuff.
I devised two scoring systems – one for movies and one for music. To use it, you have to follow the guidelines and be honest. If you’re not honest, it will be obvious, and your review won’t be valid. For both music and and movies, I break down the scoring into twenty different categories of equal weighting – out of five, for a total out of 100. Categories include acting, directing, sales; or for music – charts, influence, musical ability etc. Say you hate the Marvel movies or The Beatles. You can’t score them a 1 out of five in the Sales category because both of those were factually monster hits – they can really only be 5 out of five. In other words, some of what is opinion and bias is removed from the equation. In the same vein, the disparity between critics and audiences is reduced – typically you may think that a movie or music critic care more about how arty or original or influential something is, while the audience might care how many boobs are seen or how catchy the melody is. I’m making sweeping assumptions – but you get the idea – each category is equally weighted so that influence is only worth five points, chart performance is only worth five points, directing, advertising, whatever – each is five points. I’d love to see people use this, and I’d love to run an experiment where a group of people each use the system to score the same thing, and see how similar or different the results are. I’m positive the average would be a more true reflection than anything on RT or IMDB or anywhere else. The only issue with it is, it’s more suited to scoring once something has been out there for a while rather than a pre-release or first week review.
Nightman’s Favourite Films By Year: Self-explanatory. I list my favourite ten films from every year since 1950, with no comment. Then I give a list of my top films from each decade once I’ve done each year, but this time share some comments. There’s also some stats in there, such as how many films I picked which were nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, which were top ten grossing movies etc.
Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: A journalist called Colin Larkin made several of those popular ‘Top 1000 Albums Ever’ books. I grabbed one of them, I removed the ones I had already heard, and in this series I go through the ones that I haven’t heard, give my virgin thoughts, and whether I think it deserves to be called one of the best ever. I want to sync up my Nightman Scoring System © with these. Just one word of warning – I don’t plan or put any thought into these ‘reviews’. I literally listen and type at the same time. Not the best way to give thoughts I know, but that’s the format.
The Shrine: People die. Famous people die. But they live on, in our hearts and minds and in the work they left behind. Here I offer the chance to remember and offer thanks.
The Spac Hole: Each Monday I post a random lyric from a random song. Every so often I write something which doesn’t fit in any other category. Usually it’s weird. That stuff all goes here. There are more semi-regular pieces like those posts where I use Google translate to change the lyrics of (s)hit songs or dreadful imaginings like what I would do if I owned my own Cinema.
The Spac Reviews: Carlos Nightman is my alter ego. Derek Carpet is his alter ego. He is an idiot. He likes movies. These are his reviews. They are…. different.
TV Reviews: I sometimes review TV too. I talk about my current shows and my all time favourites.
Unpublished Screenplays: Derek Carpet sometimes likes to pretend he’s a writer too. Here are some of his original works, based on other movies and TV shows.
Videogame Reviews: I do these sometimes too. Usually retro. Usually with a humourous bent.
Walk Of Fame: Hollywood has a Walk Of Fame. I have one too. Mine’s better, except I don’t update it anymore. Not only do my inductees get a star, but they get a statue too! And, in each post one lucky soul gets a special building concerning their work or life dedicated to them!
Generic Ratings: 1: Crap. 2: Okay. 3: Good. 4: Great
Yet another fantastic acoustic solo effort from James, this time a B-Side of Autumnsong. This one follows the same format as all the others but is a nice breather from all of the noise on Send Away The Tigers. The vocals follow the central riff, a sad line which echos the sparkling lyrics concerning, again, the battle between accepting defeat and struggling on regardless. Obviously the ‘comrades’ of the title evokes both Socialist feelings and thoughts of the band as a group of friends. Anyone with more than a base awareness of the group will be aware of both their political leanings and their closeness as people. It feels incredibly lonely with an us against them vibe, except the ‘us’ is maybe three people and the ‘them’ is the rest of the world. Easily one of band’s best acoustic efforts and certainly the best in the post TIMTTMY era.
Yes, it’s another Manic Street Preachers song. I’m kicking off this series again. Why not?
Looky looky. It’s another one of those ultra rare, ultra early Manics Demos. This one never morphed into anything else as far as I can tell, but it is played at breakneck speed. It’s a pure punk song played at a furious pace, and it has the same crap quality and swirly twinkling guitars as others from this era. I actually think this song could have become something – not something very good, but recorded in a studio a la New Art Riot it may have been a fun curio instead of the barely audible thing it remains. There’s some melody, you can make out the chorus lyrics, and the drums and guitar are faaaasssst. Yep, that about sums it up.
Greetings, Glancers! Album 11, eh? We’ve almost caught up to present day. As this is one of her more recent releases I can’t confirm that I have heard any of the songs included. I probably have heard snippets, and I have vague memories of seeing some of the videos, because its hard to erase the image of her unsettling gyrations from your mind once witnessed. In truth she does that sort of thing in most of her videos so it could have been from any of her albums of the last fifteen years. In 2008 I was no longer subjected to the radio choices of others while going to, from, or in work, so my knowledge of what crap was on the radio gratefully plummeted. Apparently the album is pop/dance-pop based, with an R&B vibe. In other words, the sort of music no-one should be subjected to. See what I put myself through for you guys? And where’s my damn parade? The injustice sickens me…
Candy Shop: Beats. Beats and breaths. Vocals. What is Candy Store a metaphor for? Her music? Her thighs? Verse melodies fine, not annoying, not anything special. The chorus places a low pitch/high pitch dynamic on the vocals – it’s about as (un)memorable as the verse. There’s a silly middle section with lots of bleeps and talky vocals which ensures the song reaches four minutes. Just as I think it’s going to end some guy comes in to say various city names for some reason. It’s always the same list. Why is it never ‘Yo. Portavogie. Ormskirk. Schaumburg, I see you. Uh. Humpybong. West Side’. Etc. An unremarkable opening album track, but not bad.
4 Minutes: Loud rappy horns. Some guy doing ‘wicky wick wah’ stuff. This goes on and one. I think this would sound pretty good on the dancefloor, those horns and parps are groovy. Decent verse melodies again, the male stuff is less engaging. Good chorus melodies too, but let down by all the stupid spoken stuff. When will people learn, spoken stuff is rarely better than cringey and almost always dated within 2 months. If it wasn’t for that bollocks this would be good. It’s still good, but that talking crap is distracting and really does make it sound incredibly silly. Like someone standing in front of you making really good arguments, but you keep looking down because his knob is hanging out. And it’s weird looking.
Give It 2 Me: That beat and sound sounds like it has been lifted from a very specific D12 song. Good melodies though, no talking yet. Lots of rave stuff going on too, but it all works. The middle goes off on one with more silly talking stuff – lots of repetitive layering which doesn’t quite work but isn’t as stupid as in the previous song. You get the feeling that someone with half a brain should have been in the studio and saying ‘look, the song is good as it is, you don’t need to add all of the superfluous garbage’.
Heartbeat: Good intro, good melodies, this time it actually feels like something. She’s tapped into something more real and vital here. Again there is a sour taste because some twat is breathing or grunting or shouting nonsense in the background. A perfectly good song on the verge of sabotage. Will she do another tuneless repetitive middle – and before I’ve even finished typing that she went and did it. Sigh. She does follow it with a better second middle before going back to the banging chorus. I have a feeling sabotage is going to be the key word in this album. A pity too that the lyrics are bullshit too – not the words themselves, but the subject matter.
Miles Away: Some acoustic guitars makes this feel familiar to me. More good melodies. One thing which seems to recur is the robotic rhythm of the melodic delivery in the verses – each-verse-seems-to be sung-in-this-static-way like this. It’s another song I quite like though – aside from the plain opening song each one has been good, outside of the middles and the male hollering. I listen to a Madonna album – she’s who I want to hear, not all these other hanger-ons.
She’s Not Me: Clappy beats. Retro funk. More catchy melodies. More dancing. According to the comments this is some veiled attack/rebuttal of Lady Gaga. It’s true, she doesn’t have what you have but unfortunately this smacks more of fear – fear of aging, fear of no longer being relevant, fear of being replaced. I mean, Madonna brazenly copied from Cyndi Lauper. She did ride that bandwagon and then go on to become her own thing – which of course Gaga has done herself. I don’t see why she’s bitter about it, but then I don’t follow celeb feuds. What the hell is this awful screeching singing? Another random just popped in to give his unwarranted two cents. The song fades out for a while, then builds up in good old cliched dance style for a hectic ending.
Incredible: What appears to have been a sweet ballad has been blown up and blown apart. There’s an awful lot of crap going on in here to make the song bombastic. That’s actually not a bad idea sometimes – taking a simple song and making it grandiose – I mean Roman writers did that shit two thousand years ago. It doesn’t quite work for me here, mostly because the little blasts of sound and the fabricated drums sound so dated and juvenile (ha). It’s not the first time I’ve said this about a Madonna song, but I’d like to hear a stripped back version of this without the bullshit to see if it works.
Beat Goes On: The start of this sounds like one of those awful 5 second Youtube ads – they all have some tinkling jingle which is just short and long enough to piss you off every time it plays. Good verse melody here but the chorus and other moments feel uninspired. An oddly average mid album track which covers ground she’d done better two decades earlier. And again more stupid crap from Pharrell or whatever other binlid is yelping in the background. We do get a full rap section, at least it’s an actual rap not the momentary shouts we’ve had before. The lyrics are nonsense and may as well be ‘uh, hey girl, I got a Wispa and a Twirl; lets watch some shit unfurl, from the sphincter of a rat, or a cat, hey I got my money back, from a fish in a hedge who I found up on a ledge of a house owned by some dude called Brian who I know cos I know that he knows I’m lyin’ that the Earth ain’t round it’s flat like a cat whose shat, unfurled, from a sphincter just like that’. And behold, that is the single greatest rap lyric ever written.
Dance 2Night: So it comes to this – most of the songs have been about dancing, or going out to the club at night and dancing – you know, the most meaningless subject possible, but just to drive the point home we have a song called Dance 2Night. And of course it panders to the masses with its ‘you don’t have to be rich or pretty to do it’ message, which is another way of saying ‘ we know most people are ugly/fat/average/stupid/desperate/poor but if we make a song they think is about them they’ll give us their money. Success! It’s funky enough – sub Thriller stuff with that obvious 80s vibe, the lyrics are insipid, the melodies are too shrouded in over-produced gloss that any feeling is ripped from it. There’s a C+ grade song somewhere here.
Spanish Lesson: Ah yes, the requisite Spanish song. For 12 seconds it’s not bad, but then the idiots get their mitts on it. Lyrically, it’s literally a Spanish lesson. Musically, it’s literally a lesson on how to write a shit song. Is this also a song about fucking your teacher? Like statutory rape? There’s another dancefloor reference. Why doesn’t she just make an album where the lyrics are entirely ‘dancefloor, get up, can’t stop, don’t stop, dance, dancing, yeah, baby, dance, enough, dance, heartbeat, tonight, club, dance’? Oh right, she’s already done that. On every single album.
Devil Wouldn’t Recognise You: A little more maturity in this one. But it’s too plain and melodically boring. This sort of song is fine for covering in production smoke and mirrors because the core is so mundane. Even with all the excess, it’s tepid. She finally brings her brains to the table but misses out with the heart and soul.
Voices: The closing song, can it bring things up again? Good verse melodies – at least that has been consistent. This is much closer to the merging of heart, soul, and brain. The static-laden beat works, the lyrics are better, and there isn’t a trace of any male interference. Yet. Nice orchestral ending. See what you can do when you don’t have a man trying to piggyback on your success. Forget about Gaga and worry about the real problem.
It’s a frustrating album. One one hand it’s much better than I was expecting – then again it’s Madonna so I’m not sure why I keep expecting failure. On the other hand, it’s not as good as it should have been. Many of the songs are top grade tiers brought down by stupid decisions and interventions. To continue the dubious educational metaphor, it’s like someone has completed an exam paper to the best of their abilities and is heading for a good overall score, but with 15 minutes remaining on the clock they glance around and see that others have written different answers so they panic and begin scribbling additional answers which take away from the good groundwork they already had and thus they end up with a lower overall score. The groundwork for many of the songs on Hard Candy is sound – melody, beat, vocals, all the basics, but then some plank comes in a craps all over it because that’s what the suits have said is selling at the moment. At this point in her career, I had more than aged and matured out of her target audience, so all of the sickly garnishing I’m referring to probably satisfied the people it was meant for. The more discerning fan should be shaking their head and saying ‘Madonna, it was good, but you ruined it’. The second half doesn’t have the punch of the first and while she’s experimenting with new people, if not new sounds, there’s nothing really new or exciting here – a by-product of working with today’s idea-less superstars. There are plenty of songs I’ll gladly give a second listen but plenty I’ll avoid.
Let us know what you think of Hard Candy in the comments!
Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Heartbeat. Give It 2 Me.
Greetings, Glancers! Don’t worry, this isn’t a new series, it’s merely a continuation of the Bowie marathon. I didn’t realise or fully appreciate that Tin Machine was a separate entity from Bowie – I thought it was just another persona like Ziggy or The Thin White Duke or Mathilda Twinklegrunt or whatever. So Tin Machine was more like a side-project – they only made two albums, in between Bowie’s last solo 80s release and first 90s solo release. I may as well cover them. I’ve no idea what sound they have – did he give in and go 80s metal? The name sounds industrial so maybe it’s a mixture of guitars and electronica. It’s Bowie, so who the hell knows. Well, you probably know – I’m about to find out.
Heaven’s In Here: Okay, an actual phat riff. It’s a little bluesy, it actual has a tin sound, the vocals feel like a 50s vocal group, then it goes a little Caribbean. That’s all before the verse starts. That driving riff and bass strives to keep it grounded as Blues rock. Bowie’s vocals are mostly toned down, not going overboard with highs or operatics. The riff’s good, but maybe not good enough to sustain the song for six minutes. There’s other stuff going on so it doesn’t get overly repetitive. Some shouts come towards the end, some funky distorted guitar play and a fantastic closing solo, some great smacking drums as the whole thing collapses, not much in the way of melody.
Tin Machine: Very metal, a crashing intro. This gives way to a fast paced song which reminds me of the original Thinking About You by Radiohead. The vocals are very Ian Curtis. I know I’ll get heat for this, but Bowie’s vocals just don’t lend themselves to heavy music – rock, metal. Too smooth and overwrought. This is quite fun, but I’d have preferred a bit of a growl in the vocals.
Prisoner Of Love: A more traditional chord intro with a nice vibe. Good guitar line, much more melodic. The vocals suit this sound more closely. The extended chorus is half good, half okay, but the verses are great. I like the underlying guitar work with repeats and wavers and loops under the surface.
Crack City: I am Iron Man? I was only joking, and then the chord sequence comes in and I’m not so sure. There’s surely some ripping off here, right? That and Wild Thing. Assholes with buttholes for their brains? Is he making fun of metal here? Or just the drugs involved. A more aggressive edge to the vocals, again it doesn’t quite work, but he’s really going for it here.
I Can’t Read: More tin drums and distortion and a simple yet potent riff. The riff breaks out and gets better. Cool dark atmosphere, and another much more suited to Bowie’s voice. I think the anti-melodic approach works well here – it’s purposefully robotic. Then the chorus is like an anti-anthem with pop sweetness. Very good. Nice screams and another collapse at the end, though we don’t need the sex noises.
Under The God: Feels like a straightforwards rock song. Then the riff comes in and it’s a little samey to ones which have come already, but it doesn’t last. Great lyrics from what I can pick up, good chorus, good backing vocals, good everything. It there’s any complaint, it probably could have been condensed to a punchier 3 minutes.
Amazing: A little bit of Led Zep now? It as a full sound, light staccato guitar bursts and surging solo lines. It’s very sweet, and another good one.
Working Class Hero: We know this one of course, but it’s a bombastic and different intro. Most covers of this I’ve heard stay close to the original. This is a little more funky. The original is far from a favourite of mine so most covers don’t do it for me.
Bus Stop: Another fast rocking intro. Feels quite punk, though softer. Not a fan of the accent. I would have guessed this was another cover of a punk song I haven’t heard – I don’t think it is.
Pretty Thing: A strange voice floats in, quickly joined by fast biting chords in the vein of more punk bands. It’s fast, not quite chaotic, the pauses keep it fresh. It changes pace and tone midway through, become more of a loose, freestyle instrumental.
Video Crime: It’s cool how modern this sounds for something made in 89. If anything, it’s Bowie’s vocals which date it purely because when I think of Bowie, I think 70s/80s. The guitars could be from any decade since the 80s. This song is a little too slow and start/stop, but the refrains are catchy. Great drums throughout.
Run: A moderately more pop sound for the intro, but yet again one with an atmospheric tone. I love that dual riff and Bowie’s vocals suit the verse melodies to a T. The chorus pays off too. The second half doesn’t have the same immediate impact but it does get more rocking towards the end.
Sacrifice Yourself: Stretching guitars, thumping drums, and an old-fashioned rock beat brought up to date with the surrounding chaos. This one is fun, more shouted vocals, but maybe a little too streamlined and simple. Short too.
Baby Can Dance: A long intro with plenty of guitar distortion and howls and assorted beats. A catchy refrain holds it together. The lyrics seem silly. A long middle section with lots of clashing noise. An okay song to close the album, not the best.
It turns out this one wasn’t well received upon release. I can only assume critics and fanboys were more used to the fawning intellect and electro and glam rather than the harsher, more punk-based songs, more in your face display here. That’s their loss. This has been one of my favourite Bowie listens thus far, the heavier songs and more metal approach suiting my traditional tastes. Plus there was hardly a piano or horn in sight, something which usually brings Bowie’s songs down for me. The album as a whole I can see myself listening to again given that I thoroughly enjoyed many of the songs – that usually means the ones I didn’t like as much will increase in my estimation.
Let us know in the comments what you think of Tin Machine!
Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Prisoner Of Love. Crack City. I Can’t Read. Under The God. Amazing. Run.
Greetings, Glancers! You can probably guess, but I’m not a fan of Van Halen. They were one of the biggest hair metal bands and hair metal has always represented everything that metal shouldn’t be – fun times, happy go lucky pop songs, box-checking business led metal, technical skill for the sake of technical skill, poser artists only in it for money and women and drugs, lyrics about tedious bullshit like women, going fast, and fast women. Hair metal is basically the mainstream RnB of the 80s – seriously, compare any major RnB song and hit hair metal song of the day’s lyrics, and they’re basically the same thing.
And yet, I’m talking in generalizations and I haven’t given most of the major bands a fair chance. I’ve heard the big songs, I probably have heard some of the albums but I don’t remember, and my preconceptions and criticism of the genre have possibly blinded me to some good stuff. This album was a huge success, Eddie Van Halen is one of the great guitar Gods, and maybe as this was their first album there is a more raw feel before hair metal became drained down to the faux-pop it undoubtedly is. I’m here to learn, that’s part of the point of me going through these posts and albums – I don’t expect to be converted and I’m fully prepared to hate it even more than I already do, but I hope to at least find some new songs I’ll enjoy.
So, before Grunge and European Metal came and thankfully cleansed us of all of this masturbatory, self-worshipping, reality TV-precursing, pouting, watered down stain, Hair Metal was King – silly, shouty choruses were being sung by bankers, soccer moms, children, and chavs alike. The album cover is about as respectable as it gets for Hair Metal – it presents the four members of the band in a live setting, so at least we assume they can actually play. I’m not sure why two of them appear to be on fire, one seems to have a steam of stench emanating from his shoulder, and Roth is doing the Robert Plant thing. Urgh, here we go.
Runnin’ With The Devil: If you’re going to have a metal album, and a debut, you’ve got to give your first song a great title. It’s better if it’s a great song of course, but a cool title helps. No complaints on that front. Of course I already know this song, and it looks like the first half of the album is stacked with the hits. I’ll admit it takes balls to have an instrumental and a cover in your first three songs. It begins with a siren/alien spacecraft/car screeching by sound before a single repeating bass note sets the pace. The drums are 80s a few years early, very steady and plain, and Roth’s vocals have a deeper tone than you may recall. The verses are mostly uneventful, while the chorus has that Desmond Child/Def Leppard shouting thing I can’t stand – one of the key factors which hurts hair metal for me. It’s a very plain opener – even the guitars don’t offer anything out of the ordinary, and for me isn’t a great representation of what the band could do.
Eruption: This is one of those tracks which budding guitarists have on their wishlist shortly after picking up the instrument. We make the list of songs we want to be able to play from our favourite artists, but then there’s the holy grail list, usually starting with Johnny Be Goode and running up to this. This showcases what Eddie brought to the band and how he almost single-handedly revitalized the instrument. Plenty of other guitarists had played with speed and intensity and brought the tapping style, but here the showmanship and ferocity and focus on doing it fast opened the door for the next gen. It begins simply enough, with a cascade of drums and a bit of guitar wankery, but once that first dive-bomb hits it picks up. It’s brief and it has since been surpassed, but at the time this must have been a revelation and sounded almost unearthly.
You Really Got Me: Although it’s louder and chugs more, it’s somehow less metal and sexy than the original. It’s something about the cheesy harmonies in the chorus and the cleaner sound. Naturally the solo is crazy and short, but all the vocal grunting and squeaking is very silly.
Ain’t Talkin’ ’bout Love: Another famous one and I’ve always quite enjoyed the lead in riff – there’s a touch of that shadowy atmosphere I’m always going on about. The vocals are much too plain and anti-melodic for my liking. It’s almost a punk or old blues approach to the vocals, while the chorus is still shouty without being annoying. In essence I don’t think the rest of the song lives up to the promise of the riff – I don’t think they knew what to do with it.
I’m The One: A furious guitar attack intro is joined by some really shitty sounding drums. It’s a shame because the actually drum technique is satisfactory. The pace is maintained throughout but again the vocals and melodies are the link which bring the whole chain dangling down. The song feels like a jam – Eddie just says ‘fuck it’ and busts one out, Alex is clearly off his face and tries to keep up, and the other two randomly shout and play the first thing that comes into their heads. I’m not sure what sort of melody they actually could have slapped around the guitar and drums so it’s probably as good as you could hope for.
Jamie’s Cryin’: A down and dirty sluggish riff is accompanied by a higher pitched squealing guitar. The mocking vocals come in and it feels like the band is taking the piss. The chorus is the same as all the others – sing the title while harmonies repeat it at the same time. Some cool drums before the second chorus. It’s inoffensive easy listening stuff and to its credit the chorus hook is more memorable – it does get annoying after the twentieth time though.
Atomic Punk: You can tell where G’n’R got their intro idea for Mr Brownstone from – this begins with a similar phaser style. Then the verse starts and feels like Di’Anno era Iron Maiden with a US twist. The punk of the title isn’t just in name only, there is a punk influence here but it’s taken in a more metal direction thanks to the guitar ability. It’s not the most exciting song, the riff again is good and it does pack a punch.
Feel Your Love Tonight: A more traditional hard rock, blues infused riff and feel. Again the harmonies just don’t work, because they’re not really harmonies – it’s just singing the same lyrics in the same way in a slightly higher register. That stands out to me and I can’t shake how futile it feels – if you’re going to add harmonies, do it right. The vocals aren’t the best – very anonymous – and there isn’t a single hook to hang your bandanna on. I get why people probably think it’s fun.
Little Dreamer: Another plodder. I wasn’t expecting the nods to the blues so much, but they take what they don’t like from that genre – samey vocals. Luckily the backing vocals are better this time, the ‘oohs’ doing what the harmonies of the previous song failed to do. The guitar solo almost feels out of place – there’s this little blues ramble and a lead guitar firing off at a billion miles per hour. This one is catchy, more than I can say for most of the others.
Ice Cream Man: I know I mentioned the Blues before and I expected people to vent in the comments about how there’s no way any of this is blues. Then this disaster drops and it’s completely taking the piss. Beyond the funny lyrics this is complete nonsense – I’ve said before that Blues is the easiest music to copy and one of the most limited genres. Listen to any three or four blues songs, hand someone a guitar, and they’ll come up with the same thing. That’s what this is, but of course they bring the metal half way through. It doesn’t add anything beyond volume and some more furious guitar.
On Fire: A punk influenced closer – lots of yelling, pretty chaotic, and lots of wacky guitar. A few riffs charge about, lots of running up and down the fret, lots of shrieks, and buckets of energy. No melodies though.
On the whole I was pretty much spot on with my introduction – this doesn’t feel like a true hair metal album as it came a few years before that genre truly started. It’s something like mashing together Aerosmith, a batch of US punk bands, a touch of NWOBHM, a sprinkling of what Hair Metal would become, and capped off with Eddie’s guitar. It’s the guitar which makes this noticeable – without it this would have been a long forgotten average rock album, but because every riff is at worst solid, at best iconic, and the playing what you remember. Which is good because most of the actual songs are very ordinary, throwaway straight rock with barely a tune between them to whistle while you work. Roth was a better stage presence than he was a singer, making up for a lack of character in his voice with a series of leaps and twerks, and the other pair aren’t really noticeable for the most part. So, it’s not horrible but it lacks any real stand out tracks.
Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Eruption: Jamie’s Crying.
Let us know what you think of Van Halen in the comments!
Greetings, Glacers! It’s time for another history lesson for any of you budding metallers out there. In fact, I’ve probably already mentioned this before, so the brief version is that Urchin were formed before Iron Maiden by Dave Murray and Adrian Smith. Murray only played on a song or two, while Smith became one of the main driving forces. They were essentially a live only band and Smith went on to form a series of other bands. Every so often he would get Urchin together for the odd show. Their limited album releases are collections of singles and live stuff. So they say, I haven’t heard them yet. UNTIL NOW!
Keeping It Mellow: A loose and mellow opening which is much smoother and softer than I was expecting. If anything, it sounds reminiscent of Free’s All Right Now. Just good cruising music for nice weather. It’s far from amazing, the vocals are a little scratchy and the production isn’t great but much better than what I was expecting. A simple, easy listening rock song which says everything it has to say well within three minutes, yet keeps going for another two. There’s a tasty solo in those two minutes, but still could have done with some shaving.
Life In The City: Another good intro, some guitars with a flange or phaser effect, the vocals are a little too shouty and plain for my liking. There’s an ever so faint touch of Maiden in there, but it more accurately sounds like a tonne of American MOR rock bands. Parts of the solo go full Maiden at times.
Watch Me Walk Away: A subtle melding of cymbals and bass gives way to some synthesized guitars for something with sounds like an up tempo ballad. I don’t think that’s what the lyrics are going for. There’s that 70’s rock beat again. It’s another good song – not anything that’s going to change anyone’s world and if I heard it on the radio I wouldn’t go searching to see who it was by – but I wouldn’t change the station.
Countdown: Well, this is a collection of oddities – a very nice and atmospheric opening which reminds me of the slower, mysterious stuff from the first two Maiden albums gives way to chugging chords clearly borrowed from Phantom Of The Opera – the opera, not the Maiden song. Then it feels like 22 Acacia Avenue. The vocals suit the song better this time around, and the solo is great too – very Maiden.
Lifetime: This is verging on cheesy. There’s a slow, stomping beat and all this twinkling keyboard stuff, and the lyrics are all lovey dovey. Still, the extended intro has a certain level of intrigue. It’s not bad. One thing missing from the songs for me is any real sort of emotion, beyond the fact that the band seem to enjoy playing, and that there are no standout hooks, no big chorus, no major melody. The solo here goes pure futuristic, or at least what they thought the future would sound like in the 70s.
The Late Show: Another distinctly Iron Maiden sounding song. Once the verse starts it turns pure Pink Floyd – Time to be precise. It’s a softer Maiden with a more bluesy, jazzy texture. We even get an organ solo. It’s still just missing the hook.
My Lady: Oh, this one tops 8 minutes. Are they gonna go for it? That’s a pretty great intro, again quite Maiden in tone, especially with that swirling guitar. The vocals are too flat in the verses and the chorus is far too plain. It’s the same issue I had with most of Di’Anno’s vocals – just boring to me, ignoring any Dickinson comparison. We get a solo, instrumental section just before the 4th minute, assuming it’s going to change gears for final half. Well over a minute of guitars, no gear change yet. Back to the verse, that’s a shame. A song this long, you gots to change it up. This is meant to be emotional or something, but it doesn’t work. Decent song, but no need in being so long.
Animals: Well, this takes a different approach. It’s not disco, but it’s certainly funky. Still rock of course. Topical lyrics. It almost, dare I say it, has a ska feeling. We head into a groovy instrumental section, the lead jangling chords linking with the constant drum beat while Smith lets loose on the six string. This doesn’t feel like Maiden in any way. An interesting end.
That was a lot better than what I was fearing. It’s a pity then that none of the songs really standout as a crusher. For picking my playlist tracks I could really pick any of them for the same reasons – none are bad, none are great – they’re all equally good. They’re all equally B- grade. You can tell their influences quite easily, and you can also tell how the sound went on to determine that Maiden sound. Taken as a whole they feel like any number of 70s rock bands who haven’t quite nailed down their own sound and direction and hit that niche where they can express creatively and deliver what they are capable of.
Let us know in the comments what you think of High Roller!
Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Keeping It Mellow. Countdown.
Greetings, Glancers! You know, throughout my life I’ve heard quite a few songs by Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison that they wrote, recorded, and performed outside of The Beatles. Ringo Starr though? I can’t think of any off the top of my head. That’s why I was surprised that he has made so many albums – surely I’ve heard something. As I make my way through this journey, I’m sure I’ll find out. And yet, Ringo’s voice was probably more familiar to me than any of the other Beatles when I was young, thanks to his work on Thomas The Tank Engine.
Sentimental Journey was released in 1970 and is apparently the first non experimental, weird, avant-garde album by any Beatle. I was looking forward to this until I saw the tracklist and released it was a cover album. Ah well, I suppose Ringo had to work through his shit before making something good too. Lets do this.
Sentimental Journey: We open with a song I don’t recognise. It threatens Country, then Jazz, then settles into some easy-listening crooning once Ringo starts singing. I know Ringo’s vocals tend to get a lot of criticism – he can sing fine, it’s just that he’s limited. His vocals work well for things like With A Little Help. The problem here is that the song is junk. There’s a lot thrown into the arrangement – droopy horns, backing vocals, and some unusual voicebox work. A slow, yet detailed opening.
Night And Day: Big band wank. If there’s one other genre I typically cannot find any worth in beyond Country (and Irish) it’s Big Band/Swing stuff. Ironically, Starr’s vocals do suit that style, though he probably doesn’t have the strength or supposed sex appeal the singers in this genre are supposed to have. But the melodies, the brass, the beat, the swagger – everything about this is abhorrent to me, aside from some of the snazzy drum fills, but it’s not Ringo’s fault – it’s just a crap song in a style I can’t stand.
Whispering Grass: More big band jazzy stuff. At least this song has a discernible, appealing melody. The strings are whining, the song is boring, and Ringo’s voice doesn’t have the chops to quite pull it off. It takes a certain level of talentlessness to put violins in a song and make me wish they weren’t there.
Bye Bye Blackbird: Is this Paul McCartney? Or Arthur Askey? It’s the sort of jaunty piece of novelty crap McCartney would have written then passed over to Ringo to sing. Funny for about three seconds, then tragic. It should also be noted that I was listening to this while trying to untangle my Laptop power cable before the battery died, and I almost headbutted the monitor in rage.
I’m A Fool To Care: More brass. More ass. I’m not sure I would have survived in an era when music was this bad – pre 1950. Then again, I’m alive now. If I had been alive then, I’m fairly certain I would have single-handedly invented Metal. Somehow.
Stardust: Oh no. I see the whole album was meant to be a selection of his parents’ favourite songs. That would explain it – parents haven’t a fucking clue. This has some interesting pronunciation.
Blue, Turning Grey Over You: Dear Jeebus, so much useless noise. All that brass makes me feel how pensioners must feel when they hear Cannibal Corpse. The melody is almost non-existant, the trumpets run over everything else making the song nothing more than a predictable selection of brass farts.
Love Is A Many Splendoured Thing: Another of the songs I know. Of course it’s a song I never liked. He keeps the awful choral backing vocals, but his vocals act as a counterpoint and somehow improve things. This is absolutely a song which should be performed solo with quiet vocals and as little backing arrangement as possible.
Dream: I know a version of this. This isn’t much better. Ringo’s verse vocals don’t work at all. It’s just another boring pre-rock ballad with the same rhythm as the others. Nigh on unlistenable.
You Always Hurt The One You Love: At least this one starts interestingly, before the verse arrangement gets things all wrong. More wanky jazz in the middle. Terrible.
Have I Told You Lately That I Love You: We all know this. Apparently Elmer Bernstein had a crack at arranging this. It’s somewhere between a complete mess and something that weird ginger kid in your class who usually said funny things and sat with one hand in his pocket all time would write.
Let The Rest Of The World Go By: Twinkling and tinkling. Then more brass. And the same rhythm as the other dreary ballads. Worse than Love Island.
Well, the title was right. Kind of. It probably was a Sentimental Journey recording these for his parents. For everyone else (me) it means absolutely nothing and is as pointless a piece of shit I’ve ever had the misfortune of hearing. What do you think? Actually, forget it – I never want to think of this again.
Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Seriously?
Greetings, Glancers! I’ve now listened to two ‘new’ Bon Jovi albums with Lost Highway and The Circle with the general consensus being that I thought they were better than I was expecting, particularly the latter. With today’s listen-though, I haven’t even heard of the album title before and know absolutely nothing about the songs or music or style. I was aware that Richie Sambora left the band at some point, but it turns out that this was the last album he worked on with the band. I don’t know anything about the background or his reasons for leaving the group, but maybe that has some sort of effect on how the album sounds. I don’t know, I’m clutching straws. I don’t think that, even though I was pleased with the last two albums, that I’m going to raise my expectations in any way so I’m still placing the bar quite low for this one. Let’s do this.
‘Because We Can‘ has a very poppy opening – lots of layered vocals and keyboards, light on the guitars. John’s vocals sound a little strange, not sure if they were being tweaked in the studio. I quite like the verse melody, it’s an easy ear worm while the chorus has lyrics which are easy to remember and sing along with. It feels like a dedicated attempt at making waves in the charts and it’s quite a distance from their harder rock roots.
‘I’m With You‘ is more like what we know from the band, even if they guitars lack whatever bite they may have once had. I’m happy they’ve returned to a focus on melody, something they had slipped a little from but have grown back into in the last album. I am drawn more to the verse melodies on this one, same as the first, and in the chorus here the mass vocals feel over produced and possibly modified a little from how they originally sounded.
‘What About Now‘ is the title track, and sounds like another obvious single. It’s much more generic and middle of the road than the first two songs, but it’s still going to appeal to their core fan group. It’s a little more emotive in the second verse but I don’t see it having the power to draw in any new fans.
‘Pictures Of You‘ continues the full melodic sound. The songs may lack punch and are ever more pandering towards fans of the softer side but they’re not overly repetitive in terms of this album yet. This is sweet enough, obviously another love song but with a fast enough tempo to keep it out of ballad territory. If you already like the band, you’ll enjoy this. If you don’t like them, this will be more evidence. It’s not strong enough to convert any newbs if we compare it to their big hits.
‘Amen‘ is straight into ballad land, starting with an acoustic guitar as soft as a harp and lots of loving metaphors. There’s not much to it – the odd swell of strings and organ as it proceeds, but very simple and not any new ideas. Once the vocals and strings soar it gets better, but he needed to take the vocals one notch higher – in the past he would have. One for the ladies… just not enough force to get it into that A class of ballads.
‘That’s What The Water Made Me‘ increases the pace once more with a clattering of drums. More poppy melodies, very commercial, very much ticking all those ‘how to make a hit’ boxes without hitting the ‘how to make a classic’ ones. It’s fine and another great song for existing fans.
‘Whats Left Of Me‘ is more of Jon aligning himself with or imagining himself as the working man, and jotting down his thoughts on blue collar life. There’s an ever so quiet hint of Nashville similar to what they were doing a couple of albums ago. No new ground here and not strong enough of a copy to make any impact.
‘Army Of One‘ opens with a drum beat which should be familiar to most Bon Jovi fans. The organ grows as the vocals prepare for an anthem of some description. The guitars and bass join in slowly but the sudden chorus blast breaks this rhythm and any crescendo falls apart. The chorus is too simplistic and repetitive to drive its point home with any conviction. Instead it sadly comes across as the sort of attempt at an anthem or rallying call that a one year’s success boy band’s manager would devise. It’s supposed to be inspirational and I hope it reaches the ears of those who need it and who it would work for, but it misses the mark wildly for me.
‘Thick As Thieves‘ feels like a more honest ballad. There’s a dual keyboard and organ, smooth in your eye vocals, and a slow pace. It’s touching, I can see it working for most fans. It’s not perfect, it doesn’t have the emotional peaks I look for in ballads, instead going for a more matter of fact approach. Their existing fans who prefer the ballads will surely adore this too.
‘Beautiful World‘ gets the pace back on track, though we’re hardly getting out of third gear. Plenty more hooks, more positivity, and another big chorus with enough bounce and energy to serve it well in the live environment. There are quite a few songs on the album which feel like singles, but none of them would crack the band’s own top twenty or my personal favourites.
‘Room At The End Of The World‘ starts with great promise – straight in with no messing or elaborate intro. The melody and atmosphere I look for are there and it feels like it’s building towards something interesting. The chorus hits and it’s… well it’s like any number of the band’s choruses in their previous ten years. They’re very interchangeable and don’t stand apart from the crowd. I keep saying it, but long time fans shouldn’t mind.
‘The Fighter‘ draws the album to a close. It starts with promise – uncomplicated guitar which Jon follows with his vocal melody. It’s very sweet and the lyrics aren’t as obvious. The chorus for once feels like an extension of the verse and melody rather than an attempt to sound as commercial as possible. A pleasing ending.
Well, another good album better than what a cynic like me would be expecting. It doesn’t leap out of the stereo, it doesn’t challenge, but it does give fans what they want. It’s wonderful for the fans that the band keeps giving the fans what they want and that the band are happy to keep doing what they do. They’re probably doing what they do better than anyone else, even if they’re not doing it as well as they used to. That’s the part which is to be expected as few artists can continually reinvent themselves or get progressively better. Most hit a peak and stay there or tumble off the other side into oblivion. Maybe there are songs here with the strength and quality to bring in new fans, if only the listeners had regular easy access, but as healthy and fun as most of the songs will be for existing fans I don’t see the audience growing. On a personal note there are fewer songs that I’d chose to listen to again than on the previous album, but I was never really the target audience.
Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Because We Can. I’m With You. The Fighter.
Let us know what you think of What About Now in the comments!