Ranking Drones – Muse

Drones: Amazon.co.uk: Music

By the time Drones came along I had mostly stopped caring about Muse. I still bought it on day one, but I probably waited a few weeks before listening to it, and maybe only listened to it twice in that first year. Part of that is down to how I consume music. I’m still a CD guy when it comes to buying, and I very rarely use stuff like Spotify for new music. I used to convert my CDs to play on Ipod, but by 2015 I’d slowed down on this nonsense too. Plus I’m old, and I struggle to care as much about music unless it has some immediacy for me at a melodic, emotional, or conceptual level. Drones didn’t appeal to me on any of these levels, it didn’t jump out at me screaming to be heard; it cowered in the corner shouting military slogans. Having survived a stint in the military in my youth, such things are ridiculous to me. It’s also a case of having heard the same riffs, the same approach to music and melody, and the same type of songs done better before, plus the band and their thematic content somehow seemed more juvenile and adolescent than ever. There are still a few decent tunes in there – it’s still Muse for Bellamy’s sake – so of course they’re not suddenly shit, but as a whole due to where I was and the overall samey nature of the thing, it comes across as distinctly average.

  1. Revolt.
  2. Mercy.
  3. Aftermath.
  4. Reapers.
  5. The Globalist.
  6. Dead Inside.
  7. Psycho.
  8. The Handler.
  9. Drones
  10. Defector.
  11. JFK.
  12. Drill Sergeant

Let us know what you think of Drones in the comments!

Happy Ending

Happy Ending: 3/Good

As the title suggests, this does sound happy, one of the very few songs in the Manics catalogue that sounds genuinely content. It’s another very simple song with simplistic, poor, repeated lyrics from the Lifeblood/There By The Grace Of God era, and at the time felt like a possible goodbye from the band. The band seemed like they wanted to go in one direction musically, but there was an uncertainty over whether they could convince themselves and fans of this direction, so possibly they would just pack it all in instead. Happily they didn’t, and we are left with this curious, piano driven pseudo-goodbye, pseudo-dedication. The melodies are amicable enough, Bradfield hits some high notes and while the song reaches for those crowd-pleasing chorus peaks the piano makes it feel more like a Coldplay song in places. It rarely goes beyond ‘yeah, this song sounds nice and nothing else’ but it’s enjoyable enough in small doses to keep it higher than average for me, with extra points because the band sound like they are content. 

The Story Of The Song: I’m not sure if the band has ever talked publicly about this one, but based on what they were going through at the time – the downgrading from Stadium chart toppers, the changes in musical and stylistic direction, the boredom Wire was always mentioning in interviews, and of course the lyrics themselves, it seems reasonable to assume they had this planned or written as a thanks and good bye song. It’s a little too soppy in one way for a band as angry and punk as they are, but it does fit. If it was meant to be a goodbye, I’m surprised they released it at all.

Let us know your thought in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – Roxette – Charm School!

Charm School by Roxette: Amazon.co.uk: Music

Greetings, Glancers! I’m fairly certain I’ve seen a Barbie movie called something like Charm School. That one where she’s Blair Willows. But that’s not why we’re here. We’re here to hear something we haven’t heard before, and by ‘we’ I mean ‘me’, and by ‘me’ I mean ‘I’. I haven’t heard any of this album before and in truth I don’t have high hopes. Charm School was the first album in ten years from Roxette, after the not so good Room Service. Marie had had a brain tumour you see, and that sort of thing gets in the way of, well, everything. But the band and Marie kept fighting and returned with another record. I have no idea what it’s like or what it’s about, but the best I’m hope for is one good single in the vein of their past greats – one song that I hear and can say ‘hey, that was actually pretty good’. Lets do this.

Way Out‘ starts out with some distant swirling before a laid back beat and acoustic guitar section starts. Per’s vocals should always take a back seat to Marie’s for me, but that’s me. It’s nice to hear that Roxette pop rock sound again, in this modern world of clipped melodies and auto-tuning. There’s some crisp guitar, some light melodies, and the chorus is as always the focal point. It’s not bad.

No One Makes It On Her Own‘ begins with Marie and piano. With a name like that, it’s easy to draw parallels with what she had been going through when gone from the public eye. Her vocals are still good, but is there some sort of mumble quality or lisp there now? Or is she struggling more with English? There’s definitely something a little different from before. Otherwise, this is very nice – a melody as simplistic as something like Imagine but honest and heartfelt. Two songs of varying B Grade quality.

She’s Got Nothing On (But The Radio)‘ opens with a funky beat and strange oozing distortion. Per leads again. The verse is guff, the chorus isn’t bad but too short versus the longer verse. The verse is C or D grade, the chorus B, the bridge B – whatever that works out for you. I’d call it the weakest song so far, but the most up-tempo.

Speak To Me‘ starts with one of those oriental sounding string instruments. More Per. A better melody and verse. The Marie comes in with a blast of a chorus – that’s a very Roxette chorus, very reminiscent of their heyday. It’s good. I get the impression that this one would act as a comeback anthem for diehards. It’s not challenging, just a reminder that they can still do the big emotive power pop thing when they choose to.

I’m Glad You Called‘ is slow acoustic guitars and the start. It’s Marie and that lisping mumbling quality is even more prominent here. It’s quite distracting, which is a shame because the music is quite lovely – no booming drums, but lots of string accompaniment and unusual vocal choices, even when Per joins. I think this could be really good with a more powerful vocalist in their prime, or Marie twenty years earlier.

Only When I Dream‘ kicks off with the big hook first, some fuzzing guitars and synth stuff alongside it. Per propels another decent atmospheric verse forwards before Marie joins. It keeps kicking on and building and then the chorus drops suddenly. It’s pretty good too, but those transitions are slightly too sudden – like there’s a few seconds just missing to connect the pieces and heighten the emotion and solidity. Still, it’s more compelling than most of what was on the last couple of albums and it actually feels like a return to form.

Dream On‘ opens with a nice acoustic flourish before trending towards an early Britpop sound – like James or one of those bands who were doing the Britpop thing before Blur and Oasis exploded. They’ve pulled way back on the experimental outbursts from the last album and are dedicating their focus on melody, which is a big plus for a band like this. Marie gets a quick hook in there too, followed by some harpsichord type jingling.

Big Black Cadillac‘ sounds like they’re going experimental again. There’s synth humming but at least it’s melody based again rather than just chucking in sounds for the sake of it. It’s more that they’ve said ‘instead of guitars, lets try this’. The verse is silly and bouncy, the chorus better. A little similar to some other songs on the album but not so overt as to make me discount it.

In My Own Way‘ is another slow one – arpeggio and Marie, singing more clearly now. Another good melody, more building in the background. We get the few seconds of space before the chorus. But is that the chorus or just another verse? That’s a shame as there is no clear and obvious standout chorus. The rest is good, though we probably didn’t need Per’s part.

After All‘ has another quirky Britpop approach. Feels like the start of a sitcom or a kids TV show. It’s fun and silly and nonchalant. This one feels like a sleeper single.

Happy On The Outside‘ has some brief synth beats and swirls which pull back to allow Marie’s vocals through. Atmospheric again, melody focused again. The chorus clearly owes a debt to Coldplay with the way the drums and piano jangle together, but the melodies remain strong. It all seems effortless, though the cynic in me could say they’re treading water and barely trying. I don’t think that’s the case – I think it’s more a case of them finding comfort in music again and re-introducing themselves to the world in the best way they know how.

Sitting On Top Of The World‘ has more synth sounds. Marie in the verse again and more decent verse. That plinky instrumental overlay reminds me of Michael Jackson’s Someone In The Dark from ET. It’s a strong ending, gentle, easy, clean, they’re not breaking any new ground but simply saying ‘hey, we haven’t been around for a while, but we’re back and we’re still doing that thing you like’.

Well, I got more than I asked for. Quite a few songs met my categorization of ‘pretty good’. When they stick to what I feel they are best at – emotive pop – then you know you’ll get some good stuff. When they try to branch out into different styles and approaches it tends to fall to pieces. Here the softer songs are stronger, the weaker tracks reserved more for the upbeat, up-tempo, more rock oriented songs. Also, it’s a consistent album – it doesn’t bounce from sound to sound and style to style, and it’s not bloated like some of their biggest released. As such, there are plenty of songs I’d gladly listen to again. I don’t think any of them come close to their absolute best, but a few drop into the same crowd as their second tier stuff. It definitely works as a comeback album, a reminder that they can still write crowd-pleasing anthems and emotional ballads. It would take sterner critic than me to complain about that, given the length of time they’ve been away and the circumstances surrounding their absence. If you like Roxette, or if at some point you’ve enjoyed their biggest hits, there will be something here to pull you in.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Charm School!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Speak To Me. No-One Makes It On Her Own. I’m Glad You Called. Only When I Dream. Dream On. After All. Happy On The Outside. Sitting On Top Of The World.

The Wisher

*Originally written in 2003

Spliced (Movie Review) | Bloody Good Horror

Another cheap horror movie which borrows heavily from both big and cult hits of the genre, but one which manages to be quite enjoyable even if we have seen it all before. There are some good performances, some not so good, a few typical scares and jokes (some which hit, some which miss), a fair amount of blood, a simple but well executed story, and quite a creepy bad guy. Probably not worth searching for, but worth watching if it is on TV especially if you are a horror fan.

Mary is a teenage girl with a love for horror movies, always searching for the next scare. When she hears about a new film called The Wisher which has been getting good reviews from terrified audiences, she and her friends go to see it, against her father’s wishes. Mary has a habit of sleepwalking which her father believes is caused by all the rubbish she watches. A short time into the movie, Mary vomits and leaves knowing the film is too much for her. After an argument with her father she wishes he would just go away. Soon her father is dead, and Mary believes she keeps seeing the Wisher creature from the movie. She becomes paranoid and after a few more gory events related to what she has innocently wished for, she believes that The Wisher, or someone dressed up as him is stalking her, obsessively carrying out her wishes in the worst way possible. She finds out that the film makers imbued the film with subliminal messages, and thinks that school hunk Brad, who likes her, has been hypnotised by the film. She tries to find a way to reverse the process, planning to watch the film to see how it ended. The Wisher is on to her plan though…

Although everything is pretty predictable there is still enough fun to warrant watching this. There is some cheesy dialogue and effects, and you would think that once you believed that your wishes were coming true you would immediately wish for The Wisher to leave. Liane Balaban is very good as Mary, at times carrying the film on her own, and Ron Silver is good though seems uninterested in a smaller role. The rest of the cast are OK, but the film is quick and never tries to over-achieve. The Wisher itself does look scarier than your typical cheap horror movie bad guy, and the director’s best moments are when the Wisher is stalking in the shadows or on reflections. There is not much heavy violence and nothing is over-the-top. Give it a go if it’s on, but do not expect a masterpiece, just a quick piece of entertainment.

Let us know in the comments what you think of The Wisher!

She Is Suffering

I’ve always felt this to be the weakest song on The Holy Bible – too dreary and too distant from the more severe emotions which run through the rest of the album. This is unusual because it retains the quintessential Holy Bible atmosphere and obviously the Production ensures that there isn’t any other album it would work on. Maybe it’s the pacing -it meanders and plods and remains on a single level. It’s the weakest song, but it’s the weakest song on as perfect and harrowing an album as you’ll ever hear.

It does unsurprisingly have a superb lyric, and taken as a standalone song the melodies and tone work much better versus listening to it on an album run through. The US mix adds more depth and warmth and becomes the more interesting version musically, but it still lacks something which makes me love it as much as the rest of the album. It does have a blistering, basic guitar solo though, always a bonus.

The song was a single, reaching number 25, and accompanied by a truly unnerving and creepy video involving mannequins. It’s not very good, but it leaves an impact which is more than can be said for most Manics videos which are simply not very good.

She Is Suffering: 3/Good

The Story Of The Song: Like much of the album, this song is definitely about something but unlike the more overt political statements or concrete glimpses into Richey’s state of mind, She Is Suffering is more obtuse and open for interpretation. Logic dictates that the key to unlocking the song is deciding who, or what ‘she’ is and why or how she is suffering. Some have tried to identify a real life person, some have said it’s Richey and Nicky equating themselves to femininity, others that it’s the dichotomy between the pointlessness of and need for sex (stretching the narrative to being about a real life story of cheating or betrayal) but the most common interpretation is that ‘she’ is simply the personification of ‘beauty’. Beauty means suffering. Going directly to the source, Richey himself described the song as detailing the horrors of desire and the need to rid yourself of all want to become pure.

Misheard Lyrics: She is suffering upon her death.

2. Beauty she is God

3. It’s not an insult/it’s a body’s soul/into my own soul

4. Carry on

5. Unfair for all

6. The less she can stammer

Actual Lyrics: She is suffering yet more than death.

2. Beauty she is scarred

3. Into man’s soul

4. Carrion

5. Unfaithful all

6. The less she gives the more

Let us know in the comments what you think of She Is Suffering!

In Your Room

*Originally written in 2009

See the source image

Anneke’s 3rd release since leaving The Gathering shows further growth as an individual artist and as a whole is a much lighter album than any previous work. I say ‘lighter’ with a positive slant, as this album goes for a more straight forward pop approach, revelling in Beatles-esque melodies rather than some of the more downbeat, introspective, and slower songs from previous albums. There is a sense that Anneke is smiling throughout each track and the sheer joy of writing and performing shines through. Some fans may not agree with the direction she has taken here, but there are still plenty of traditional rock moments. At its core, this is another emotional piece covering a wide array of thoughts and feelings brought to our ears by her heavenly voice.

‘Pearly’ opens the album in a suitably left of centre melodic manner. Twanging chords build gradually, while Anneke sings of desire in an openly horny fashion. The verse and chorus are catchy without being instant ear worms, and she substitutes a guitar solo with her own vocal ‘doos and dees’ – something I always enjoy. This is a strong opener which tends to grow on the listener as time passes.

‘Hey Okay!’ was the lead single and highlights the overall direction of the album. It is probably the most pop-sounding song she has ever written, and as a result is one of her most fun and infectious. It certainly isn’t the sort of fluff which makes up the charts, but rather returns to the days when melody was master and wit and talent followed in tow. Lyrically, it is a partner to the opening track as it continues the subtly sexual themes, but musically it bounces along with one of the most repeatable choruses in recent memory. The song even ends with some tongue in cheek cheerleading vocals.

‘I Want’ continues the light, bouncy introduction to the album, except that the lyrics here are more biting, dealing presumably with some guy or guys and their problems. There are some hilarious synth sounds throughout which give a retro feel and add to the humour of the lyrics, whether intentionally or not. Once again, the ‘do-di-dos’ are extremely catchy and will repeat in your head throughout the day, most often at inappropriate moments.

‘Wonder’ is the first quiet, piano driven, introspective song and as such has a downbeat tone and some heartbreaking lyrics. It re-treads some similar ground from Air but improves upon her debut’s efforts with this feeling much more tuned to heartache and sounding more relatable. It is a simple song, one of loss, one with deep feeling, and one whose simplicity will haunt the listener who has been through a similar situation.

‘The World’ opens with an ominous build-up and a series of questions directed at the listener about the state of The World. The male vocals drop in the second verse to give a different level of texture and tone before the pair duet for the chorus. This is a decent mid-album track which would have more impact in a live setting.

‘Sunny Side Up’ returns us to the lighter side of things in glorious fashion; a lovely, simple, summer song that I can find no fault with. Instantly contagious thanks to beautiful melodies throughout, and a nice string middle section replacing the usual guitar solo. Who’s Miranda?

‘Physical’ begins in acoustic fashion albeit with bitter lyrics and angry vocals which reach a wonderful peak in the chorus. Nice chorus harmonies too. I like how this one switches between sensual and angry, light and dark very easily and quickly, echoing the ‘you…me’ lyrical style. Another novel touch is replacing, or echoing the guitar solo with Anneke’s voice.

‘Home Again’ is the second sullen piano led track, and while it doesn’t pay off as well as the first, it still has strong moments, particularly on the ‘stormy day’ line thanks to the painfully yearning vocals. The verse and chorus seem a little too barren and unaffecting to have a huge emotional impact, but I’m sure there are plenty who will see this as a favourite – just not for me.

‘Wide Open’ is one of the heavier songs on the album, featuring a driving bass line and an interesting series of guitar riffs. The verses aren’t particularly memorable, but the chorus vocals are fairly powerful and the lyrics give off both a blasé air of disinterest and an honest, thankful sentiment.

‘Longest Day’ is my least favourite track on the album, a little too uneventful. There isn’t anything wrong here – it isn’t bland, it just doesn’t have enough to make it stand out from the other softer songs presented. There are good moments, naturally, like some of the melodic parts pre-chorus, and during the chorus – it feels like another track cut from Air as it has the dreamy, thoughtful sensation which permeated that album.

‘Just Fine’ is one of my favourites, a calming mid-paced rocker which has Devin Townsend’s influence all over it. I love both the verse and chorus melodies, both showing off Anneke’s wonderful range, but without doing anything spectacular. It’s another sunny, snappy song.

‘Adore’ closes the album in strong fashion, a 5 star track with stormy guitars and notable melding of vocals and melody. Anneke weaves between the usual soaring sounds and more rough edged vocals where a touch of gravel adds that extra something special. The way the melodies rise and fall along with the guitars is particularly glorious, and although the chorus is a little uneventful, it only lasts a few seconds each time.

While Air was a distinctly cold, and almost barren affair musically (not a bad thing) In Your Room is altogether warmer in tone and theme, with a much fuller musical soundscape. There are more driving rock songs, there is more variety, and there are a selection of standout memorable tracks which deserve more recognition. Anneke here has clearly found her own voice and style, and is having fun writing, recording, and performing. When the output is as strong as this, both she and us should have no complaints.

Let us know in the comments what you think of In Your Room!

1980 Academy Awards – An Introduction

53rd Academy Awards.jpg

The 53rd Academy Awards saw Johnny Carson leading the proceedings once again and featured Ordinary People picking up the most wins, with The Elephant Man, Raging Bull, and The Coal Miner’s Daughter and others earning high numbers of nominations. This year saw many interesting movies in multiple genres being awarded or nominated, and of course many others not appearing at all. As we proceed into the 80s we’ll be getting into the territory of the films I know and love most and as such the number of films which would never get nominated in a million years in the real world, will be nominated by me. Exciting!

Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton were some of the performers this year, while Lilian Gish, Peter Ustinov, Luciano Pavarotti, and Sigourney Weaver were some of those handing out the awards. Henry Fonda got an Honorary Award, as did the Special Effects team who worked on The Empire Strikes Back.

Join us over the next few weeks to see which films I nominated and awarded, and feel free to add your thoughts and picks!

The Slumber Party Massacre

The Collinsport Historical Society: Monster Serial: THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE, 1982

When you call your movie ‘The Slumber Party Massacre’, there are certain things an audience might expect; namely, a slumber party, possibly some sort of massacre, and perhaps that massacre will happen at a slumber party. The periphery information – what the theme of the Slumber Party is, who is in attendance, who is doing the massacring, and why these people are being massacred – well that’s left to the excited viewer to uncover, but presumably each of these questions would also be answered. The Slumber Party Massacre answers every one of these questions – there is a slumber party (attended by a bunch of peppy high school seniors), there is a massacre (instigated by a good old fashioned escaped crim who takes a liking to this particular group of friends), the massacre does happen at the slumber party (and a little precursor or two beforehand), the theme of the slumber party is simply to drink and get stoned and bitch about people – and some of these people even show up to be massacred too. Basically, there’s a whole lot of massacring at this slumber party.

What else should be in a film with this name? If you answered boobs, then you’re correct! Boobs should be present, and boobs are present. Quite often in fact. If you’re wondering why I’m asking all these bizarre, vaguely humours questions – it’s not merely because I’m a lazy, unfunny writer, but it’s because they’re actually relevant to the context of the movie. The film was originally written as a parody or satire of the booming slasher genre – while it was never going to be as meta as Scream, it was still designed to poke fun at the exploitative nature of the genre – the male gaze and full frontal antics, the ludicrous violence, the empty-headed characters, nonsensical plots, and the killers and their ridiculous agenda/weapons/masks/unkillability. At some point between script and filming the unthinkable happened and the film instead switched into being the exact sort of film it was meant to be satirizing. What this means is that we have a film filled with the blood, guts, bad guys, killings, and boobs of your usual sleaze’n’slash-fest, but a script with strange in-jokes, characters who seem more savvy than they should be, and some proto-feminist turns. In short, it’s fucking bizarre.

While you’re not going to highlight any of the performances as notable, everyone here is passable and entertaining, from the cannon fodder to the cannon. As bad as you’re expecting a film with this title to be, you’ll enjoy it in spite of yourself. Horror fans will enjoy the niche it owns along with the kills, the various trappings and tropes, and any non-horror fans will get a kick out of how silly it all is. On the surface it’s a typical slasher following a bunch of girls being stalked by a crazed killer and his powerdrill (shlong), and as they get picked off one by one the survivors begin to fight back in a last gasp attempt at survival. It’s just over an hour long, and as such makes for a curious and simple good time – the perfect horror party movie before moving on to something more substantial.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Slumber Party Massacre!

Ranking The 2nd Law – Muse

Muse – The 2nd Law (2012, Vinyl) - Discogs

Similar to the last album, this is a more consistent affair without a single song I strongly dislike, but with few clear highs. My number 1 is head and shoulders above the others, the next eight songs are roughly similar in my estimation, and then the last few are a step further behind.

1.Madness

2. Follow Me.

3. Save Me.

4. Panic Station.

5. Big Freeze.

6. Animals.

7. Unsustainable.

8. Survival.

9. Supremacy.

10. Liquid State.

11. Isolated System.

12. Explorers.

13. Prelude.

Let us know your ranking in the comments!

Ranking The Resistance By Muse

Muse – The Resistance (2009, Gatefold Card Sleeve, CD) - Discogs I think this is the first Muse album where there isn’t a song I can point to and say ‘I don’t like that one’. However, there are fewer highs than any album so far. The title track is one of their best, but most of the songs are middling and forgettable. The Exogenesis piece I anticipated was going to be wonderful and the perfect next step for a band as overblown as Muse to take, but it’s a little bland and turns out it’s not the sort of thing I want from Muse. This also represents the turning point in my fandom timeframe – I began to not care as much about the band as I had in their (and my) earlier days. No bad songs, but if someone told me to sing a bit from anything other than my top two picks, I wouldn’t be able to.
  1. Resistance
  2. Undisclosed Desires.
  3. MK Ultra.
  4. Unnatural Selection.
  5. Guiding Light.
  6. Uprising.
  7. I Belong To You (Mon Couer S’Ouvre a Ta Voix).
  8. United States Of Eurasia (and Collateral Damage).
  9. Exogenesis.
Let us know your ranking in the comments!