inutero

It’s hard to believe 20 years have passed since the release of Nirvana’s third and final studio album, In Utero.
When the album was originally released in September 1993, I was a freshman at Bloomsburg University. The music scene back then was so much better than it is today, but that makes me come off as a crotchety old man.
But back in 1993, rock bands (I refuse to call them grunge bands because what the hell is grunge really?) like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice In Chains ruled the music world and MTV (remember when MTV played music videos?). Today the landscape is dominated by pop schlock generated by talentless hacks like Justin Beiber, Katy Perry and the like. Today, folksy tunesmiths like Mumford and Sons and poppy bands like Fun and Imagine Dragons are what is considered rock (not ripping on these artists, but they don’t overtly rock). At least those bands play instruments, but I find myself longing for times when the pop landscape was much more diverse than it is now.
When Nirvana hit it big with 1991’s Nevermind, Michael Jackson still ruled the charts and rap was in its early stages as a viable music medium (and much fresher than most of the rap churned out today). Hard rocking bands like Guns N Roses and Metallica were at the peak of their powers, but Nirvana was something else to behold.
They rocked hard, but maintained their punk sensibilities. Kurt Cobain was the anti-rock rock star, which ultimately contributed to his demise.
Nevermind, and namely its lead single “Smells Like Teen Spirit” launched the band into the stratosphere. Cobain suddenly became the spokesperson for his generation, a role he never seemed all too comfortable with.
When it came time to record a follow-up to Nevermind, the band set out to shed some of its mainstream audience gained with the shiny Nevermind. The music was darker, louder and certainly not as “radio friendly.” One of the best examples of this came in a track called “Radio Friendly Unit Shifter”, a title so intentionally ironic. This wasn’t radio-friendly at all, but still gained a big audience nonetheless.
In Utero has always been my favorite Nirvana album. The way it shifts from noisy screamers like “Scentless Apprentice”, “Milk It” and “Tourette’s” to the more quiet “Dumb” and brilliant closer “All Apologies” shows a band really coming into its own. It’s a shame Cobain committed suicide a mere 7 months after it’s release, as the band certainly had plenty of gems left up its sleeve.
For the 20th anniversary edition, original producer Steve Albini remastered the album, and it sounds wonderful. Included on the first disc are album B-sides “Marigold” and “Moist Vagina.” “Marigold” was the only Nirvana tune written and sung by Dave Grohl, and it’s a lovely little acoustic tune. “Moist Vagina” is awesome, with Cobain mumbling the lyrics “She has a moist vagina, I particularly enjoy the circumference” under heavy guitars. Turns out, the song really isn’t about chicks at all, as Cobain screams the chorus “Marijuana” throughout the song. Also included are the two tracks from the era given to compilation albums, “Sappy” and “I Hate Myself and Want to Die.” “Sappy” was given to the excellent No Alternative compilation album, and was formerly known as “Verse Chorus Verse” before another tune, recorded in the Nevermind era, was released under that name on 2004’s With the Lights Out box set. “I Hate Myself and Want to Die” was reportedly Cobain’s original choice for the album title (meant as a joke at the time, but thank God the album didn’t get called that given the events that followed), and here the song opens with a funny snippet of Dave Grohl talking about a porno.
On the second disc, a remixed version (by Albini) is included where you can here subtle differences to the songs. “Serve the Servants” has an entirely different guitar solo. The cello is largely excised from “Dumb” The guitar counter melody to “Very Ape” is much more prominent, and the “all in all is all we are” lyrics are brought up in the mix on “All Apologies.” It creates a fresh take on a classic album.
They simply don’t make albums like In Utero anymore.

Sod rating: *****

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For his first official solo album in six years (2008’s excellent The Fireman album doesn’t quite count), Paul McCartney enlisted the help of four producers with the hopes of finding the right one.

Turns out, the former Beatle enjoyed working with them all. Two of the producers have Beatles connections, or at least their dads do. Giles Martin, son of Beatles producer George, and Ethan Johns, son of Glyn (who worked on the ill-fated Let it Be project) lend support, as do Paul Epworth (Adele) and Mark Ronson (Amy Winehouse, Bruno Mars).

Working with younger collaborators seems to have lit a spark under Sir Paul, as his new album (aptly titled New) continues McCartney’s late-period renaissance (which began with 1997’s excellent Flaming Pie)

The album contains a variety ofu musical styles from the straight-ahead Strokes-like rocker Save Us to the almost Penny Lane like title track (complete with harpsichord), there is much here to like.

Queenie Eye contains a throw everything at the kitchen sink psychedelic vibe, complete with a mid-song breakdown which sounds like it was lifted from another song entirely. It’s marvelous, showing McCartney is still adventurous at age 71.

One of the more reflective pieces on the album is Early Days, where McCartney recalls his pre-Beatle days with John Lennon, where they were looking for anyone to listen to their music. He also takes issue for the many Beatle scribes over the years who claim to know everything about the band’s history but “weren’t where it was at.”

On My Way to Work shows off McCartney’s storytelling ability, as he sings about “riding on a big green bus” and watching the people as waits arrive at work. Again, it takes the listener back to a time before McCartney was one of the most recognizable faces on the planet.

There are interesting stylistic detours and modern production flourishes included on tracks like Road, which has an almost trancelike feel to it (it would have fit nicely on the aforementioned Fireman album) and even features a xylophone quite prominently.

Everybody Out There and I Can Bet should fit quite well into Paul’s arena set, with easy to sing along choruses and a huge rock sound.

The bonus tracks on the deluxe edition aren’t mere filler. Turned Out almost sounds like a lost George Harrison track, while Get Me Out of Here shows off Paul as a 1920s bluesman.

New is a refreshing batch of McCartney tunes, growing on the listener with every spin.

Sod rating: *****

 

It’s been a long time (since I rock and rolled). Seriously, I have neglected this blog far too long, and now it’s time to get back in the saddle (again).

Think my last post was in December, by far the longest I’ve gone between posts since I started this shabang four years ago. Has it really been that long? Time certainly flies.

Since I last graced you with my presence, much has happened. Namely, my lovely wife Tina is pregnant with our first child, a girl ready to make her entrance into this world sometime in late October. World Series time, but as any long-suffering Met fan will tell you, our team will be nowhere near the World Series save for watching it on TV.

As far as the Mets go, I like the baby steps they are taking rebuilding the farm system. They seem to have pitching galore, always a good thing. The major-league club is a mess, especially offensively. Yet, I don’t want to see them unload 4-5 top prospects for a Giancarlo Stanton or Carlos Gonzalez in the offseason. They need to hold on to as many young arms as they can, as the San Francisco Giants have proven you can win with a lackluster offense if you have pitching and defense.

I’m loving Matt Harvey’s emergence as a true No. 1, and he looks like he may soon be the best pitcher in baseball (he’s already in the discussion). Also hoping Zack Wheeler can live up to his immense promise and give the team a dynamic 1-2 punch atop the rotation for years to come. So far, the results have been uneven. Wheeler still needs to work on his command, but the stuff is for real. Noah Syndergaard, the pitcher the Mets basically stole from the Jays in the R.A. Dickey trade, is flourishing since his call-up to Double-A. Huge righty with a fastball he can dial up to 99 and a power curveball. Also has more command than Wheeler showed in the minors. They need to hold on to him, as he seems to be a guy any team would demand (and should) in a trade for a top outfielder.

Anyway, just wanted to get the ball rolling again on the blog. Will try to be better at posting. It’s July and I’ve finally made my first post of 2013. Hope all three of my loyal readers are alive and well!

aerosmith
It’s been 11 long years since Aerosmith last released an album of original material, and much has happened to the band in that time.

Infighting nearly led to the group’s demise after frontman Steven Tyler was rumored to have fallen off the wagon (and fallen off the stage in a 2009 concert). Tyler eventually landed on American Idol as a judge, and for a time, the band was supposedly auditioning other singers.

Somehow, some way, they put aside their differences and finally began work on the follow-up to 2001’s Just Push Play (they did release an excellent album of blues covers in 2004 called Honkin on Bobo). I got excited when I found out Jack Douglas was co-producing the album, as he was behind the boards for their greatest 70s triumphs Toys in the Attic and Rocks.

The band promised a return to their to their roots, and in some spots on the album, they deliver on that promise.

However, Music from Another Dimension tells the tale of two bands – one led by guitarist Joe Perry and the other led by Tyler.

Perry still wants to rock, and the band does just that on album highlights like “Love XXX,” “Oh Yeah,” “Out Goes the Lights,” “Street Jesus” and “Freedom Fighter (which Perry takes lead vocals on.”

Tyler, like he has been doingsince 1993’s Get a Grip, shows an over-tendency to reach for the heartstrings. Quite simply, there are way too many ballads on the 15-track standard version of the album. (The 19-track deluxe version has yet another ballad). And many of these ballads are schmaltzy and interchangeable. “Can’t Stop Loving You” is a ballad with country princess Carrie Underwood, and while it’s ok for that genre, it doesn’t fit as an Aerosmith song and is an obvious attempt at crossover success. “We All Fall Down” and “What Could Have Been Love” are two more faceless ballads, with the first written by Diane Warren (who is responsible for Aerosmith’s worst-ever song I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing, also inexplicably the band’s only No. 1 hit).

Those three songs come in the middle of the album, and drag the momentum down significantly. The album gets off to a strong six-song start with mostly rockers (the ballad “Tell Me” is one of the better ballads, probably because it is written by bassist Tom Hamilton and had no outside help from professional hitmakers, lowering its cheese quotient exponentially). But once you get to track 7 (What Could Have Been Love), the album slides into a streak of alternating gratingly weepy ballads with quality rockers. If anything, these ballads should have been spaced out better, but 2-3 songs could have been eliminated and this would have been a much stronger set. The album’s flow is a big problem throughout, as the two songs sung by Perry (Freedom Fighter and Something) are lumped closely together at the end, between yet two more ballads (Closer and the tearjerker Another Last Goodbye, which is much better than the middle trio of faceless schmaltz).

The four songs on the deluxe edition vary in quality. “Shakey Ground” is an old R&B cover, and Aerosmith shows its funky side, which is very fun and interesting. “Over the Mountain” is written and sung by Hamilton, and quite frankly, would have been better if Tyler handled the vocals. “Oasis in the Night” is a pleasing mid-tempo ballad written and sung by Perry, while “Sunny Side of Love” is a slight but solid Tyler ballad (certainly better than a few that made the actual album).

The album shows Aerosmith still has plenty of musical talent, but they could use better editing skills. This could have been a true return to form if cut to 10-12 songs. Instead, it’s an uneven hodgepodge of a record that doesn’t quite flow. But, I’ll take this over no Aerosmith at all.

Sod rating: ***

Mets about to make big mistake

Posted: November 27, 2012 in Mets
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Multiple published reports have the Mets offering David Wright a seven-year contract extension. The exact terms of the extension is up for debate, but it seems to be in the $120-125 million range. I have big time problems with this if it happens, and I’m a fan of Wright.

Wright came up through the Mets system and has been a fine player, both on and off the field. But he will be 30 in December and since the Mets picked up his option, this new deal wouldn’t even kick in until 2014, when he’ll be 31. So, he’d be with the Mets until his age-38 season. Ask the Yankees how A-Rod is doing in his late 30s without PEDs.

This just seems to be the latest in a long line of foolhardy business decisions made by Mets ownership (the Wilpon family). It proves that they care nothing about winning and only about the bottom line. Wright, the Mets’ face of the franchise and most marketable player, puts fans in the seats and sells jerseys. They’re probably afraid if they trade him, even fewer fans will come to the morgue also known as Citi Field.

But they don’t seem to realize, winning will put fans in the seats again, and I’m not so sure this improves the team. Tying up this much money to one player is the type of thing we’ve been seeing for years now (that is when the team actually opens the purse strings, which has happened less and less since the Madoff scandal). The better option would be to trade Wright for a package of prospects and try to fill the numerous holes on the roster. The outfield is a travesty, the catching is a joke and the bullpen (as always) sucks rhino balls.

The Mets brass doesn’t seem to know which way is up, so I have very little faith they’ll be able to make the right moves. I truly believe Sandy Alderson and company would trade Wright in a heartbeat if not for the presence of Jeff Wilpon, the owner’s son and wanna-be baseball executive. Jeffy Wilpon has done nothing in his life but be born with the right bloodlines, and he is running the Mets into the ground. The organization has no direction. On one hand they say they’re rebuilding the farm system, yet when draft time comes, they go with safe easily signable picks.

One week they say they are going to improve the team through trades. And then today, according to beat writer Adam Rubin, they are going to go the free agent route to improve their joke of an outfield. But in the same report, it says Scott Hairston may be too expensive for them. If Hairston, who did a nice job in a platoon role last year, is too expensive, I hate to think of the shit stains they’re looking at.

What they really should do is trade Wright for a CF prospect , RH catching prospect and perhaps a young pitcher (can never have too many of those) Then sign a stopgap third baseman¬† like Kevin Youkilis or Jeff Keppinger to a one-year deal while prospect Wilmer Flores hones his skills at AAA. And they’d still have enough money to sign a decent OF to go along with the one they traded for in a Wright deal.

It just seems this team is forever treading water. I would almost be out and out shitty for a year or two than the 74-78 mediocrities we’ve grown accustomed to lately. At least the Mets would get a top 5 draft pick and maybe hit a home run on one.

I love the Mets and always will, but I get the sinking feeling they’ll never be a championship team as long as the Wilpons are in charge. At least I’ve got my 86 Mets championship DVDs to comfort me.

Well, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted on the trusty old blog, but what better time to break my silence then now, with the release of Soundgarden’s first album in 16 years.
King Animal arrived in stores Tuesday, and let me tell you, it didn’t disappoint me in any way, shape or form.
Many comeback albums have the feel of a thrown-together cash grab, a usually crappy facsimile of glory days, easily discarded and forgotten about.
Not with these alt-rock godfathers, who sound as fresh now as they did when they disbanded in 1997. And boy, how I’ve missed them.
In this current musical landscape of MP3s, silly mindless teenybopper pop and lackluster hip hop, it’s nice to hear a mighty guitar sound again.
The procedings get off to a smashing start with a clear statement of purpose. “Been Away Too Long” is about as apt a leadoff track/single for a band that has indeed been away too long. It’s a fast-paced re-introduction to the band, and the next 12 tracks give you what you love about the band – amazing, sludgy, heavy guitars (courtesy of the vastly underrated Kim Thayil), bizarre time signatures, the always reliable wail of singer Chris Cornell, the kick-ass drumming of Matt Cameron, and the relentless bass playing of Ben Shepherd.
While I enjoyed much of Cornell’s work with Audioslave and some of his solo outings, he truly works best in this band. Because all four members have songwriting chops and exhilarating musical ideas, a Soundgarden album is never dull.
From the full-guitar assault of “Non-State Actor” to the Eastern-flavored “Thousand Days Before” to the hauntingly gorgeous “Bones of Birds,” there is everything here that make Soundgarden a great band.
And while there is killer material throughout, I believe they saved the most interesting work at the end. The final three-song block of “Worse Dreams,” “Eyelid’s Mouth” and “Rowing” leave you desperately wanting more.
“Rowing” is one of the more unique songs in the band’s catalogue, as the drums have an almost Dust Brothers or Beck-like feel in the production value. It’s a slow-burning number with heartfelt vocals and an awesome bass line from Shepherd. It builds in intensity to a full-guitar swirl and as it fades, you’re ready to play the album again front to back.
It’s also a group of songs that get better every listen, as you hear some things you didn’t quite get the first time you listen to it.
It’s so good to hear from these guys again, and I hope it’s the beginning of a late-career renaissance for the band. The music world certainly needs Soundgarden. Thanks for returning boys.

Sod rating: **** 1/2

It’s been 28 long years since David Lee Roth recorded an album with Van Halen, and most fans had given up hope they’d ever see the rock titans reunite.
They got together briefly in the mid 90s to record a couple tracks for a greatest hits compilation, before that reunion combusted under the most acrimonious of circumstances, leading many to believe the brothers Van Halen would never work with Roth again.
Well, time heals all wounds. Or maybe just money, but the guys got back together for a successful tour in 2007 with Eddie Van Halen’s son Wolfgang taking over the reins for bassist Michael Anthony.
They’ve finally come together in the recording studio, and the first Roth-fronted Van Halen album since 1984 was the result.
A Different Kind of Truth arrived in stores last week and it certainly was worth the wait. Some of the tracks are reported to have been derived from old incomplete demos dating back to the mid 70s, while others were new creations entirely.
If the band tapped into its back log of material, the album is no worse for the wear. In fact, it might help give it an authentic Van Halen prime era feel to it. Eddie is in fine playing form throughout, Alex bangs on the skins with usual applomb and Wolfgang blends in beautifully as well.
More than anything though, it’s great to have Roth back in the fold. Leadoff single “Tattoo” is a decent reintroduction to the band, but it’s actually the worst song on the album in my estimation. Eddie really shreds on tracks like “China Town,” “Bullethead” and “As Is” as he plays fast and lout throughout.
Roth brings in his usual good-natured humor, and at times you feel transported to the band’s heyday on tracks like “You and Your Blues,” “Blood and Fire” and “Beats Workin.”
Overall, there isn’t a slam-dunk surefire classic in the mold of “Unchained,” “Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love” or “Panama” but what we do have is the most steady and consistent Van Halen album in years, and one of the heaviest in the band’s canon. It exceeded my expectations in every way. A grand comeback for a great band.

Sod rating: ****