Soundgarden “Telephantasm”


(28 Sept 2010, A&M/Interscope)

Somewhere near the top of the list of jobs I’d never want is to be the guy who has to spend the next few weeks combing over Chris Cornell’s body of work to compile a hits album that is set to be released in ten… nine… eight…

I shouldn’t say that. It probably won’t be that bad. I’m sure there’s a team of people crunching numbers, scanning YouTube and Spotify stats and flipping coins deciding what will go on and what will be left on the cutting room floor.

Telephantasm is as close to a perfect Soundgarden retrospective album as you’re going to get for the price and length. 2 CDs/1DVD makes for a great overview of the band’s career and helps point to albums one may wish to explore further. Plus it’s not so long that it’s a chore to listen to and attention starts to wander.

“All Your Lies” does not start things off well. All tracks are in chronological order and this comes from a 1986 compilation featuring other popular bands from Seattle. I’m not sure if it’s poor production that turns me off from this track or a horrible guitar effect. Either way, I’d much rather skip to…

“Hunted Down” which is the first track featuring the Soundgarden we all know and love. Those screeching vocals and crazy guitar lines are all there. But before we can build momentum and get on a roll we have…

“Fopp” is a cover of an Ohio Players song. I’m not a fan. Funk is not something I find myself getting very heavily into and Soundgarden do not do it well.

“Beyond the Wheel” is just so-so. I can’t really feel strongly about it one way or the other. It’s definitely heavy and unique but has too slow a pace to really rock too hard.

“Flower” is the first song on this compilation I love. It has an odd main riff that worms it’s way into my head and is unique enough that I still haven’t gotten sick of it. This is the beginning of Soundgarden becoming a powerhouse.

“Hands All Over” picks up where “Flower” stops. It’s similar, but this is more of a good-time party rocker.

“Big Dumb Sex” has a title that fully explains itself. It’s big. It’s dumb. And the word fuck is used many, many times.

“Get on the Snake” is a good, groovy rocker, but it’s not quite great.

“Room a Thousand Years Wide” is the beginning of mega-stardom Soundgarden. This is one of the lesser known tracks from Badmotorfinger, but I’m not sure why. I enjoy this track a lot better than…

“Rusty Cage” isn’t a bad song. I always think of a motorcycle racing game for Sega that it was used in. Did any of you ever play Road Rash? It was pretty fun.

“Outshined” is the perhaps the biggest track from Badmotorfinger. The strange thing about it is how much it’s just a grunge version of the hair metal Soundgarden replaced. It’s just much sludgier.

“Slaves and Bulldozers” is another great deep cut. Why a track like this isn’t heard on the radio every hour is beyond me, but that’s probably why I can’t find a job as a station manager.

Disc Two starts off with a stellar live version of “Jesus Christ Pose.” This song has a ton of urgency, power, and speed on its album version, but the live version kicks all those elements into high gear. If you never hear another Soundgarden track, this is the one to hear.

“Birth Ritual” comes from the Singles Motion Picture Soundtrack. It’s another so-so song. It sounds like a stock track that they had lying around so they threw it on there.

The next five songs are taken right from Superunknown and are mostly the same tracks that appear on the album. The only alternate take is “Fell On Black Days” which is the video version. I think I enjoy this version better than the album version, but it isn’t extremely different. The only difference comes from Kim Thayil’s guitar lines. The rest has a nice laid-back, live-in-the-studio vibe.

Then there are four tracks from Down on the Upside. This time there are two alternate tracks. I remember when they performed “Pretty Noose” on Saturday Night Live. It’s a good version, but not stellar. “Blow Up The Outside World” is taken from an MTV Live ‘N’ Loud performance. It’s nice to have different versions instead of the same thing I can get on the other albums in my collection, but these tracks aren’t must hear like “Jesus Christ Pose.”

The album ends with “Black Rain,” an outtake from the Badmotorfinger sessions. Not a bad track, but I can see why it was left out.

 

All that’s missing from this collection is “Loud Love” and “The Day I Tried To Live.” The latter makes an appearance on the DVD, but it would be nice to hear while I’m listening to this cruising down the highway. If they were to add those tunes and a few more alternate/live takes I would call this collection perfect. As it is, I’ll have to give it 3.5/5 stars.

I just wonder how many discs the Cornell tribute will be. Telephantasm provides a great groundwork for the Soundgarden stuff, but there’s nothing from Temple of the Dog, Audioslave or any of his solo work. It’s going to have to be a box set, with (hopefully) a truncated version for us cheapos.

I just hope it does justice to a stellar career.

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Foo Fighters “The Colour and the Shape”


(20 May 1997, Capitol)

I’m not a baseball fan, so pardon me if I screw up this analogy.

Foo Fighters’ debut was at least a triple play. It could be almost be said it was a home run, but I don’t think it quite made it over the fence. It was good. Hell, it was great. But there was something missing. It wasn’t quite a perfect album.

But as the old saying goes, you have as long as you need to write your first album. Dave Grohl had years to compile the songs on that album. The band had a considerably shorter time period to write the follow-up. Could they deliver? What were they going to do in their next at bat?

I’d have to say The Colour and the Shape is a grand slam. This was the album that catapulted Foo Fighters into the stratosphere. Before this album, you could expect to hear one Foos song on the radio for every ten Nirvana plays. Now you’re lucky to hear one Nirvana track for every twenty from the Foo Fighters.

They’re no longer “that band with the drummer from Nirvana.” Foo Fighters are now “the biggest fucking rock band in the world.” I’m not saying that every song on The Colour and the Shape is great, but they all flow together so well that even the throwaway tunes work in the context of the album to make it great.

“Monkey Wrench” was the perfect lead single. That hummable, descending guitar line and poppy melodies mix perfectly. It’s just heavy enough to appeal to metalheads, but light enough to bounce around to. “My Hero” is one of those songs where I like the video more than the actual song, but it’s still a great one. Those goofy guitar turnarounds at the end of the chorus make it all worth it for me. How do you listen to it and not play air guitar to those licks?

And how do you follow up something like “Big Me,” which is as close to a perfect love song as I’ve ever heard and puts a smile on my face nearly every time I hear it? With a song that the rest of the human population feels that way about! I can’t help but wonder how many children were born because of the song “Everlong.”

If you take the time to look past the singles there’s still great stuff. I’m not a fan of some of the lighter fare. “Doll” and “Walking After You” are a little too light for me. They remind me of a bag of potato chips – mostly air.  Stuff like “See You” and “New Way Home” are a lot better. Fun, simple rockers that get the feet tapping, but it’s the raunchy rockers that get my blood pumping.

I love “Hey, Johnny Park.” The main riff is just pure brilliance. I’m not sure if I heard this many years ago and it stuck in my head. It sounded familiar when I got my copy recently, but maybe it’s just one of those riffs that is so catchy I can’t remember a time when it wasn’t in my head.

“The Colour and the Shape” might be my favorite Foo Fighters song. When you hear the tunes “Times Like These” and “Best of You” it’s easy to forget that Dave Grohl cut his teeth playing in punk bands. When you hear the screams and noise of the title track it’s front and center.

The best thing about The Colour and the Shape is that it sounds like a group effort. Grohl already proved he could write and record an album on his own with Foo Fighters and the Late! cassette he released while still with Nirvana, but he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who needs absolute control like Trent Reznor or Prince.

Utilizing the whole band turned out to be a good decision. This was the album that led to sold out arenas and a quarter billion dollar net worth. Sometimes all it takes is four guys in a room jamming to come up with a masterpiece.

 

Bedtime for Democracy


Apologies for my recent absence dear constant reader. Things have come up that need attention.

Also, apologies for the shift of focus in this blog. We are unfortunate to live in an interesting time and there are things happening that I cannot remain silent about.

I’ll try to keep music in there somewhere.

Here’s a piece I wrote for a WordPress site called “Millenial Democrats.” Expect things in this vein from me in the future. If you’d like to update your subscription preferences to omit me, I’ll understand.

Bedtime for Democracy

But above all else, I’ll try to remain entertaining. That’s always been my primary goal with this.

Feel free to chime in.

 

Man in Misfits T-shirt Has Actually Listened to the Misfits


Des Moine, IA- Seth Gamble was surprised to learn that his sister’s new boyfriend, Brock Shiner, actually knew the words to a song by his favorite band the Misfits.

“When she showed up with this new dude in a skull t-shirt I thought ‘Oh great, Sandra is still picking up guys at Hot Topic,” said Gamble. “But then as he was walking in to the house he stopped and belted out something that sounded like it came right off of Walk Among Us. I was totally shocked.”

Gamble has been disappointed by people wearing Misfits paraphernalia in the past. But he’s found Shriner to be “more real than all those fake-ass posers.”

“Yeah, it seems like every girl in junior high school has a Misfits t-shirt or leggings or backpack or something. They must hand them out with tampons and nail polish. I started seeing this girl I met a the roller-rink because she had a skull on her wristband, but she didn’t even know that Metallica didn’t write ‘Die Die My Darling.’ I won’t fall for that again.”

Shriner was completely surprised by the news, but happy he had made a good impression on the younger Gamble.

“Oh, Brock? Yeah, he’s a great kid. He’s been following me around all day asking me about horror movies. I stubbed my toe on the way in and made a weird ‘Oooo aaaahhh!’ sound that I held onto for a really long time so now he thinks I’m into some weird ’50s band.”

Original Motion Picture Soundtrack “Sucker Punch”


sucker punch(22 March 2011, WaterTower Music )

I won’t hold it against you if you’ve never heard of this movie. It did fly under the radar, but if you took the time to check it out you were in for a treat

Sucker Punch was directed by Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) and starred Emily Browning (Pompeii, Legend) and Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, X-Men: Apocalypse). Essentially the movie is a live-action anime. There is a plot, but it’s not important. What really brought the film together were the glorious, special-effects driven battle scenes with giant samurai, steampunk Nazis and dragons. In my humble opinion, there’s nothing better than scantily clad women battling dragons.

Of course, none of those fight scenes would be worth a damn without the proper musical accompaniment. The Sucker Punch soundtrack is not John Williams or Hans Zimmer, but it ranks among the greatest film soundtracks of all time in my book.

It’s brilliance is in how it takes familiar songs and gives them a new spin. Instead of making a mix tape of b-sides from popular artists , producers Tyler Bates and Marius de Vries take old songs and have trip-hop acts cover them. This gives continuity to a seemingly random collection of tracks and makes them flow seamlessly from one to another.

Star Emily Browning sings three tracks. Opener “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” is my least favorite version of that song, but considering the other two versions are so damn awesome that’s not really an insult. It’s still worth checking out. She also does a cover of the Smiths’ “Asleep” which isn’t bad, but I can live without it.

There’s only one Bjork song I recognize. “Army of Me” is a brilliant track and the Sucker Punch remix takes all the crazy screeches and Yoko Ono-isms and makes it truly stellar. The song works great on its own, but listening to this version it’s apparent it was used in a film. I’ve never heard of Emiliana Torrini, but I love her version of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit.” It runs a little long, but when something sounds that good you make exceptions. The best part is the opening guitar riff played note for note on an organ.

Skunk Anansie turns in the best version of “Search and Destroy” I’ve ever heard. I expect it may be the best version of that song I ever will hear. This should be the definitive version that’s required listening for all aspiring punks. I’m sure it’s sacrilegious, but I’ve never cared much for the Stooges. Red Hot Chili Peppers and Soundgarden have turned in lukewarm versions of the song but Skunk Anansie are the ones to tap into the primal nature and transform it to the monster I knew it could be.

(Make sure your socks are on tight as this has the potential to knock them off. You’ve been warned.)

Oscar Isaac and Carla Gugino close the album with a cover of Roxy Music’s “Love is the Drug.” I wasn’t familiar with this song at all before seeing the movie. I was surprised to discover that it’s a cover and wasn’t composed for the film because it fits so well.

Now that I look back at the track list I’m surprised that there are so many songs I don’t like. Alison Mosshart and Carla Azar turn in a performance of “Tomorrow Never Knows” that isn’t bad, but doesn’t do anything different than the original. There’s something called “I Want It All / We Will Rock You Mash-Up (Queen cover)” right in the middle that is truly terrible. I’m sure fans of hip-hop and Queen will enjoy it, but my love of Queen isn’t strong enough to override my distaste for hip-hop.

The last song Emily Browning sings on is a cover of the Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind?” with Yoav. This is the most disappointing track on the album. Somehow they manage to take an awesome song with great musicians performing and it still manages to fall flat. I guess they can’t all be zingers.

ws_sucker_punch_1920x1440Now that I really examine this album I’m surprised to discover that I really only enjoy about half of the songs. But it’s a testament to how fucking awesome those tracks are that I didn’t even realize I didn’t like the rest of the album until I sat down to write a review.

Even if you fast forward through the boring parts like you used to do with VHS porno tapes, Sucker Punch is a film worth watching. It’s a classic in the same vein as Queen of the Damned or Escape from LA. 

Republicans Announce Obamacare Replacement


Neutron BombWashington – After months of planning and preparation Donald Trump and congressional Republicans are making good on their promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

“We turned to smart people for the answer,” Trump tweeted. “Bigly smart people. Jello. I love Jello. There’s always room for Jello.”

“There was really only one answer to the problem of dealing with the millions of people who are about to lose their health insurance because of us,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan. “And that’s the plan laid out by the Dead Kennedys on their album Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables. We’re gonna kill, kill, kill the poor.”

Republicans constantly cite people losing their insurance, rising premiums or being forced to change providers as proof of the law’s failure. Democrats point to the fact that 20 million people have gained coverage and can no longer be denied coverage due to preexisting conditions as proof of the laws success.

 

At this point no one really knows what to believe. Attitudes about the law are split largely along party lines.

I just know that my tax dollars go toward paying the health insurance for members of congress, government employees, people below the federal poverty line, incarcerated criminals and the elderly. But if you’re in the gray area between the poverty line and not being able to afford a $300/month insurance plan you’re royally fucked.

neutron_bombI’m not an expert on this subject. You shouldn’t trust my judgement, but I’m reasonably sure I’d benefit from socialized medicine and I’d be happy to pay a little extra in taxes if it meant I no longer had to buy insurance (or pay close to $1500 dollars for an illness I suffered last year).

I have a lot of respect for the Republican Party. It takes a lot of talent convince people who would benefit from socialism that it’s a bad thing because someone else might benefit more. I don’t understand it. It’s like burning down your house instead of letting a buddy crash on your couch.

Courtney Love Defines Irony


 

It’s amazing the weird shit that sticks in your brain.

Do you remember back in 2002 when MTV did “24 Hours of Love” and had Courtney Love host for a day? No? Well, you shouldn’t. It probably sucked. I don’t really remember it. I only refreshed my memory while looking for a certain clip from it on YouTube. I couldn’t find the clip so you’ll just have to trust me that I saw what I saw.

If you look on YouTube for “Courtney Love Hosting 24 Hours of Love (4/9)” you’ll notice that it starts with a scene from Almost Famous. This seems strange, but when you remember that in 1970 recording artists weren’t making music videos it all comes into focus. See, something that was left out of part 3/9 was Love introducing the song “Tiny Dancer” they played in the  scene from Almost Famous. 

What stuck in my mind wasn’t that Courtney Love is an Elton John fan. It’d be stranger if she wasn’t. What stuck in my head was her introduction of the song. She said that “Tiny Dancer” was one of her favorite Elton John songs. And that another one of her favorites was “Someone Saved My Life Tonight.”

 

If you’re an Elton John fan you know that Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy is a biographical album. All the songs are based on events from his own life. “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” is about a woman that John almost married when he was young, but his friends managed to talk him out of it.

Think about that for a minute. One of Courtney Love’s favorite Elton John songs is the one about the guy who didn’t marry the wrong girl.

Another thing that has stuck in my mind on the subject is an interview with an ex-boyfriend of Courtney Love’s in the “Kurt and Courtney” Documentary. The part that really stuck out to me in this movie comes at about the 34 minute mark where he says he would have ended up just like Kurt Cobain if he’d stayed with her.

maslow-pyramidSomething I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. You may have seen it in a psychology class. Food, water and shelter are on the bottom of the pyramid. The next level is safety and security. Then above that is love and acceptance. Studying this has helped to enlighten me as to why a woman would stay with her abusive husband. The need for love and belonging can be strong enough to overpower the need for safety and security. In anorexia it can be strong enough to overpower the need for food.

But isn’t it crazy to think that someone who was the most famous musician on the planet and adored by millions of fans would have a deficiency of love and belonging?

I don’t want to fuel any speculation that Kurt Cobain’s death was a murder. There are plenty of people out there already doing that. It really doesn’t make much difference at the moment. He’s gone and we’ll never know what could have been if someone had saved his life that night.

Maybe the next time the surviving members of Nirvana record an album with a knighted English pop star they could call the track “Boy, We Really Screwed The Pooch On That One.”