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: ****

Most Rolling Stones enthusiasts would agree about the band’s golden period – the four-album classic stretch from 1968 to 1972 where the band produced Beggars’ Banquet, Let it Bleed, Sticky Fingers and Exile On Main Street.
I can’t argue with that assessment, as I’ve always viewed Mick Taylor to be the band’s greatest lead guitarist (Keith Richards, for all his greatness, was more of a rhythm guy). Those four albums are indeed great and rank among my favorite Stones music, but the band had one last gasp of pure greatness in the 70s with the release of their 1978 disc Some Girls.
Some Girls came in a time when punk and disco were threatening to make big classic rock bands like the Rolling Stones extinct. Instead of pumping out another middle of the road, safe album (see It’s Only Rock N Roll and Black and Blue), the Stones embraced the sounds of the day and eclipsed them, while also staying true to their core blues and R&B roots.
Lead single “Miss You” used a purely disco beat, but a very memorable one. Instead of sounding cheesy or dated, it sounds funky and fresh. It’s indelibly catchy, and the only song on the album like it. The Stones responded to punk by cranking up the guitars and speeding up the tempo on tracks like “When the Whip Comes Down,” “Lies” and the brilliant “Respectable.” Mick Jagger sings with a pissed-off sneer on those tracks, and he also adds his input as the band’s third guitarist (not counting bassist Bill Wyman), giving the tracks added muscle and verve.
Elsewhere, the band sinks into a sleazy blues groove on the sleazy title track (with its infamous ‘black girls just wanna get fucked all night, I just don’t have that much jam’ line). They also deliver a faux-country number “Far Away Eyes,” where the band plays it straight but Jagger sings like he’s making fun of the proceedings and the genre. There are actually more true country renderings on the new bonus disc that comes with the album’s reissue (but we’ll get to those later).
“Before They Make Me Run” is a wonderful outlaw tune sung by Keith Richards, who was in big-time trouble with the law at the time due to a drug arrest in Toronto.
“Beast of Burden” is one of the band’s finest ballads, while “Shattered” is nasty and funky all at the same time.
While the album was recorded in Paris, it has New York written all over it with several references to the Big Apple throughout, giving the tunes a unified theme.
It’s a classic Stones album and one of my all-time favorites.
One of the best things about the Some Girls sessions was the wealth of material that didn’t make the cut for the album. And there’s a ton of it.
Many of the leftover tracks from the sessions found their way on to the two follow-up albums, Emotional Rescue and Tattoo You. Songs like “Summer Romance,” “Start Me Up,” and “Hang Fire” were Some Girls retreads.
Many more songs were left in various stages of completion, seemingly permanently remaining on the shelf.
But just like they did for the great Exile on Main Street reissue last year, the Stones (namely Mick Jagger) cleaned some of these outtakes up and released them as a bonus disc for the reissue, giving longtime fans a reason to rush out and buy it.
And just like on Exile, these extra tunes hold up quite well. A few, like the Jerry Lee Lewis rave-up “Claudine” were pretty well finished already. But several tunes lacked lyrics and complete vocals, so Jagger dusted them off. All the original backing tracks are vintage Stones recordings from the period and give credit to Mick, it’s hard to tell which tunes have new vocals and which ones don’t. Of the “new” tracks, “No Spare Parts” is a country-tinged beauty, immediately catchy with a nice Jagger vocal. “Do You Think I Really Care” is a country-fried rocker, a classic kiss-off tune to a girl “that’s never there.” “When You’re Gone” and “Keep Up Blues” are outstanding blues numbers, while “I Love You Too Much” is a straight-ahead rocker with effective backing vocals from Richards. All 12 of the new tracks add something to the Stones’ canon, and some could have replaced a few tunes on the actual album. “No Spare Parts” and the two country covers “We Had it All” (sung by Keith) and “You Win Again” are better than “Far Away Eyes,” which was always a bit too cheesy for my liking (Jagger’s vocals ruined that song for me, although the chorus is awesome, as is Ronnie Wood’s pedal steel playing).
I hope the Stones keep doing this for their reissues, cleaning up old tracks with new overdubs, because they serve as great “lost” Stones albums from their glory days, giving them a way of recapturing the magic of old without having to completely write new tunes. The first two have been successes, and producer Don Was (who has helped compile the material for each release) says there is plenty of outtakes left in the can for a new Stones album every year for the next 50 years. Doubt that’s true, but you get the point. There’s a lot left in the vaults.

Sod rating: *****

The collaboration between Lou Reed and Metallica has been getting ripped savagely in most of the reviews I’ve come across.
The pre-album buzz was so bad, I almost didn’t purchase it.
I can certainly see why this album might not be many’s cup of tea.
The subject matter is dark, as it is based on 19th century plays whose main character was a former socialite turned prostitute who eventually falls in love and is murdered by Jack the Ripper. Or at least that’s what I think it’s about.
The lyrics are so graphic at times and delivered in Reed’s speaking vocal style rendering most tunes without standout melodies.
Reed has had a brilliant career, but the man can no longer sing (not that he ever was a great singer). These days, he makes Bob Dylan look like Luciano Pavarotti.
At times, it seems he was totally unaware of what Metallica was thrashing behind him, almost as if the music and vocals had been recorded completely separately and without any knowledge of where the songs were going by either parties.
Yet there are times on this album where the project shines, nowhere moreso than on the 19-minute closer (you read that right) “Junior Dad” which should take its place among Reed’s best works. On this relatively gentle number (compared to the bloodletting that preceded it), Metallica churn out a fine melodic backdrop for Reed’s somber singing (he actually does sing here, quite effectively with weary worn vocals fit for a 69-year old rock legend). The song builds gradually and ends with a nearly eight-minute orchestral drone of beautiful sounds. It’s like nothing else on the album.
Elsewhere, there are moments to recommend. Metallica is in fine playing form throughout, although some of the riffs are repeated a bit too much (probably what Reed wanted). That’s the main criticism I have of the album, other than Reed’s sometimes annoying vocals. These songs could have been chopped in half and the album would have benefitted. There was no need for this to be nearly 90 minutes long. There simply aren’t enough musical ideas here, as many of the riffs and lyrics are repeated for no apparent reason. When the songs are concise, such as the opening “Brandenburg Gate” and “Iced Honey,” the results are quite enjoyable. It’s no coincidence that on each of those tunes, James Hetfield lends his vocal chops to the proceedings to help Reed. The better idea would have been to have Hetfield take the lead on more songs, although I can’t imagine him singing things like “I beg you to degrade me? Is there waste I could eat?” like Reed does on “Mistress Dread,” a song where Metallica thrashes along like it was 1983 again.
Hetfield does sing the curious line “I am the table” in “The View,” a song I hated when I first heard it online, but has since grown on me.
This album is nowhere near as bad as people have made it out to be. It’s not a great album and certainly could have used some more editing, but it’s an interesting listen. It’s nice to see Metallica taking some chances here, and hopefully they return to the studio with more vigor having worked with one of their heroes.
If you head into this album with an open mind, there are some rewards to be found. But tread lightly, it’s not an easy listening experience.

Sod rating: ***

In many ways, Coldplay has taken the mantle from U2 as purveyors of over-the-top pop piousness, even sounding like U2 with the jangly guitars and soaring choruses.
Their last album, Viva La Vida, was my favorite in their canon, as they pushed the boundaries of their sound to include worldly Far Eastern flourishes and pristine production values.
Their fifth and latest album, Mylo Xyloto, is a bit of a disappointment in comparison to the last disc. It again arrives in a glossy pop package, but for the most part the songs aren’t quite as memorable and in some cases, the production is too overcooked.
Case in point is the band’s foray into electro-dance beats, the left-field duet with Rihanna “Princess of China.” I like some of Rihanna’s work, but her contribution here isn’t all that memorable, mainly because the song is one of the worst on the set. It’s a definite stab at a hit, but feels out of place with the rest of the album.
There are plenty of great moments, including the opening track “Hurts Like Heaven,” the driving first single “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall, and the guitar-heavy “Major Minus.”
There are a few nice acoustic moments in “Us Against the World” and “UFO,” but there are also a few other forgettable tunes.
Second single “Paradise” doesn’t do much for me, seems to be Coldplay by numbers. “Don’t Let it Break Your Heart” could have been awesome, but it suffers from overproduction as the vocals are buried a bit too much in the mix. “Up in Flames” is a piano and drums ballad but doesn’t have much of a hook and “Up with the Birds” is an odd closer, with singer Chris Martin crooning over a Brian May sample for the first two minutes before the track takes off and then ends just as it was getting good.
Overall, the album ends up uneven and a bit of a letdown from past discs.

Sod rating: ***