Plethora of album reviews, Part 2

Posted: October 19, 2010 in Album Reviews

Arcade Fire, The Suburbs: The third full-length release from eclectic art-rock outfit Arcade Fire is one of the year’s best. Its driving theme comes from brother bandmates Win and Will Butler’s upbringing in a conservative Texas home, and their memories of their hometown fused with the current-day plight of suburban America today. It’s a captivating listen, one that needs to be experienced as a whole and not just individual tracks (although each song is wonderful). The band has created a tapestry of beautiful soundscapes, full of melodic flair and musical creativity. Although it’s certainly an artful collection, the band can rock out with abandon when it wants to (the punkish “Month of May” the greatest example). The husband-wife singing duo of Win Butler and Régine Chassagne blends effortlessly, and although Butler takes the lead on most of the tracks, Chassagne’s vocals on penultimate track “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” send chills down the spine. No song on this wonderful album sounds alike, yet they blend together seamlessly. Pick this one up immediately.
Sod rating: **** 1/2
My faves: Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains), We Used to Wait, The Suburbs, Rococo, City With No Children, Ready to Start, aw hell, the entire thing is great!

Big Boi, Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty Together, Big Boi and Andre 3000 formed the seminal rap group Outkast, pushing lyrical and musical boundaries with each release. The 2003 Outkast double album Speakerboxx/The Love Below was a group album in name only, as they essentially were each rapper’s first solo album. Both men are extremely talented, and while Andre 3000 is often regarded as the more musically diverse of the two, Big Boi’s first official solo record begs to differ.
On Sir Lucious Left Foot, Big Boi brings the funk and soul in spades, also dabbling into pop by enlisting the band Vonnegut to sing the hook in the infectious “Follow Us”. Jamie Foxx makes an appearance on the rather Prince-like “Hustle Blood”, and the album also includes inspired guest spots from B.O.B on “Night Night” and T.I. on the funky “Tangerine.” But it’s Big Boi who is obviously the star here, turning in spirited raps surrounded by memorable hooks throughout.
Sod rating: ****
My faves: Back Up Plan, Tangerine, Hustle Blood, Shutterbug, Night Night

B.O.B., The Adventures of Bobby Ray: The full-length debut from multi-talented rapper B.O.B. arrived several months back, producing a string of catchy singles backed by top-shelf guests. I’m most intrigued by B.O.B. himself, a bit of a rap renaissance man, equally adept at singing, producing, playing guitar as he is at rapping. He writes catchy hooks throughout this worthwhile effort, singing some of them himself (Don’t Let Me Fall, Ghost in the Machine) with some of the guests doing the honors. He shows an interest in many styles of music, enlisting rockers Rivers Cuomo (Magic) and Paramore’s Hayley Williams (Airplanes), pop crooner Bruno Mars (Nuthin on You) in addition to superstar rappers T.I. (I Was) and Eminem (Airplanes, Part II). Somehow, everything blends well, giving the listener quite an enjoyable ride. Very polished first effort.
Sod rating: *** 1/2
My faves: Airplanes Parts I & II, Magic, Past My Shades, Ghost in the Machine, The Kids

Soundgarden, Telephantasm: When I first heard Soundgarden was reuniting after a 13-year hiatus, I immediately began to wonder what a new album would sound like. The influential Seattle rockers (who detest the term grunge, with good reason, all those bands were excellent rock bands, nothing more nothing less) played a few concerts this summer and announced a new album. Unfortunately, it’s not the album most fans wanted, but the band seems to be following a particular plan. They released a two-disc retrospective, Telephantasm, a few weeks ago to reintroduce (or in some cases introduce) people to the band. They already have an outstanding single disc compilation released in 1997 entitled “A-Sides” on the market, and while that disc gathered all the huge hits from their mid 90s heyday, it merely glossed over the band’s formative years, which makes the new album a better representation of Soundgarden’s career arc. Most of Disc 1 covers territory where the band wasn’t yet famous and while the songs are inferior to ones on their latter-day albums, they definitely have a rough charm to them. And since I didn’t own early albums “Ultramega OK” and “Screaming Life/Fopp”, I got to hear a few songs I hadn’t heard before such as “All Your Lies,” “Hunted Down,” “Beyond the Wheel” and “Fopp.” The compilation is worthwhile for diehards who have all the albums, as it subs out studio versions of “Get on the Snake,” “Jesus Christ Pose,” “Pretty Noose” and “Blow Up the Outside World” for live renditions. “Jesus Christ Pose” kicks major ass live, as does “Blow Up the Outside World.” The Saturday Night Live performance of “Pretty Noose” leaves a lot to be desired. The band sounds great, but Chris Cornell’s vocals are shot, making you wonder why they included this other than the fact it hadn’t been released on CD before. The rare Sub-Pop single “Room A Thousand Years Wide,” released a year before it appeared on Badmotorfinger, is a nice find, although the later version is much better. “Birth Ritual,” a track I’d forgotten about from the great soundtrack to Singles, is also included, as is “Black Rain,” chosen as the album’s single. An outtake from 1991’s Badmotorfinger, the band added some overdubs and new vocals to make it the first Soundgarden single in 13 years. It’s not their greatest track, but it rocks hard and announces the band’s return rather nicely.
Sod rating: **** 1/2
My faves: Black Rain, Spoonman, Jesus Christ Pose, Hands All Over, My Wave, Dusty

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Comments
  1. Based on your last set of reviews I acquired the latest Black Keys release and have enjoyed it. I think of this batch I’m most intrigued by the Big Boi album. Hopefully I’ll be getting my hands on it soon.

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