CD Reviews


BY: Megan Hundley

Unaware that this gem of an album was being released this past week, I was happily surprised by stumbling upon The Goo Goo Dolls, Greatest Hits Vol. 2 at my friendly neighborhood Reckless Records! Not only are there 22 hard-to-find tracks on this wonder but there is also a DVD containing 24 of their videos (both live and just normal music videos!). Released on August 19, I apologize for my lapse in keeping up to date on all things that were popular in the ’90s. Needless to say I was overly excited, yet still strapped for cash. I certainly plan on picking up a copy after this coming Friday (pay day!) and then I can Goo my life up a little bit.

That sounded weird, but I’m keeping it. I rarely have these Tobias Funke moments so I am embracing it.

( Photo by Megan Hundley, The Goo Goo Dolls, El Yunque Rainforest, PR, February 2008 )

More tidbits about the 2-disc album are that you can find some of your favorite music videos from their well-known hits all the way to their newest releases. I’ve been trying to keep up with the GGD (for short) after seeing them this past February in El Yunque Rainforest in Puerto Rico. Yeah, I’ll attach some pictures from the show. It was UNREAL! John has quite the sense of humor that night that was vocalized when he told us to, “Watch out for the rabid monkeys”. Thanks for the tip.

I also was fortunate to meet them before the show and get a picture with them! But, this was all after I tripped and almost fell right in front of John Rzeznik. He caught me before I fell but I totally felt like a tron and you can tell by my awkward face in the picture. So, without further adieu, here are the pictures I promised…

(Me and the Goo Goo Dolls in El Yunque)

( Photos by Megan Hundley, The Goo Goo Dolls, El Yunque Rainforest, PR, February 2008 )

So, I suggest going, if not sprinting, out to the local record store (or just go on iTunes) and get this new album. I can’t wait to snag a copy of my very own and cherish it forever and ever. I might just frame it and put it up on my wall with my David Bowie vinyl records. We’ll see.

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BY: Megan Hundley, 8.21.08

Throw every notion you already had about Bloc Party out the window. Intimacy, the newest album from this booming British band is a whole new side to their musical talents. With fresh lyrics, including a few more blatantly vulgar phrases, and a more techno sounding sheen covering said album it completely shows Bloc Party turning a new leaf. With no song less than 3 minutes long, get ready to be entertained!

With the jarring initial track “Ares” begins almost angelically and then dives right in to the synthetic guitar sounds and outstanding drum beat. Kele chimes in with the first words on the track, “War war war war!” Initially, I thought this song reminded me of how I feel when I’m intoxicated. A mish-mash of sounds, words and tones. It’s fun, it’s interesting and it’s worth revisiting.

Then comes the second track “Mercury” ( which I saw Bloc Party perform live just a few weeks ago at Lollapalooza ’08 ) which I can definitely see being remixed sometime in the near future. It’s repetitive and catchy and a jumble of many different sounds.

“When I saw them play [“Mercury”] at Lolla, I thought it didn’t sound anything like what they’ve done before,” commented John McGuire, when asked about his thoughts on their new sound.

Track three, “Halo”, might be my favorite on the album. From the beginning you just want to get up and dance, jump around on things and sing along with Kele as he asks you to “Paralyze [him] with your kiss”. I was really hooked on this song by the break down. What an amazing tune! You really just have to listen to it.

Let’s slow it down for a bit with track four, kids. “Biko” is an easy, flowing song that makes you want to be in love with someone. It’s a very encouraging tune that really makes you feel a lot of different strong emotions in a 5 minute span. With lyrics like, “Biko, toughen up/ I need you to be strong”, it really makes you think that it was written about a cornerstone in someone’s life. It really made me think about my life and what I find important.

Then there’s “Trojan Horse”, the song that sounds like a good song to speed down a freeway listening to. It’s fast, entertaining and emits a spirit of pure carelessness and a need for something new. It’s commanding and OH MY GOSH, the break down is insane. I was going to go back and erase what I said about “Halo” but both break downs are equally enticing.

Next, “Signs” takes you on a trip to somewhere completely different from the rest of the album. In all honesty, I thought I was going to Mr. Rodger’s house at the beginning of this song. That was until the song took flight into the picture that Kele is trying to paint for the listener. It’s a calming, slightly adorable song, that has an underlying tone of irony because Kele begins talking about someone’s funeral and then you literally just get lost in the soothing music.

( photo by Caroline Doerhoff, Bloc Party at The Pageant, St. Louis, MO, 2007 )

Seventhly (that’s a word now), we are presented with “One Month Off”. It’s a complete 180 from the previous song. The thick and juicy baseline catches your attention and refuses to release its grip. I was lying before when I said that “Halo” was my favorite song because “One Month Off” takes the cake. It has an interest message that really connects with many of today’s bigger issues ( war, corruption, etc.) and puts it into perspective, for me at least. This songs is chalked full of synth sounds!

Track eight, “Zepherus” sounds a little bit like “The Prayer” off of A Weekend in the City, but only for a brief moment. This epic song is very ghostly and it really sticks with you after you listen to it. The back-up singers really make this track so shockingly different from the rest of the album. The lyrics are full of emotion and intense, what I felt was, anguish. It sounds like they are looking back on a certain conversation that went awry in the past. Very thought provoking, if I do say so myself.

“Better than Heaven”, the ninth track on Intimacy, is in a class of its own. The set up for this song builds up anticipation for what is to come. It’s certainly a step up in tempo from the previous song but it is still slightly less energetic than the rest of the more dance-worthy songs. Again, this must be the album of intense break downs because just around the 3-minute mark, you are blown away by the way the song builds up to such an explosion of immense sounds.

To wrap up this digital release we have “Ion Square”. A piano brings us in to Kele’s slightly raspy yet loving voice and brings us into the meat of this song. With over six minutes to bring this album to a close this song does its job to a “t”. It’s not too loud, too soft (to be really lame and make a reference to “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”), it is just right. More words from the heart and experiences of the members of Bloc Party are scattered all through out this song. I just want to hug all of them when they sing, “I carry your heart/ here with me.”

I think that these four (Kele, Russell, Gordon and Matt) must have just sat around with distortion pedals and a synthesizer for a year and just threw their awesomeness on them because that’s all I can think about when I listen to this album. I’ve fallen even more in love with Bloc Party, if that was possible, after I listened to Intimacy. A very strong third album that will surely keep them going for many more amazing albums to come.

Black Kids have been one of the most hyped bands of the summer, and their long-anticipated debut album “Partie Traumatic” was finally released yesterday… But was it worth all the fuss?

Do you like the 80s? Are lyrics that neither make much sense nor rhyme that well not that big of a deal for you? Would you enjoy the yodelings of a youngish Robert Smith, up half an octave? Well then I have the band for you! Black Kids are neither black nor children, but they’re going to be your new favorite band whether you like it or not.

Partie Traumatic begins with “Hit the Heartbreaks,” which busts out with a full on 80s synth blast and a knock knock joke, giving the listener a taste of the surreal mix of puns and retro pop that pervades the entire album. Lead singer Reggie Youngblood’s voice slides and dips through the synthetic soundscapes, the result and eerie premonition of what Robert Smith might’ve sounded like had The Cure come out of Florida instead of England.

First single “I’m Not Going To Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You” offers a pretty standard watching the girl of your dreams from afar-type scenario, but with another infectious synth hook, more nonsense lyrics (“You are the girl/that I’ve been dreaming of/ever since I was a little girl”) and Justice-like kid choruses shouting “Dance! Dance! Dance! Dance!” – and you can’t really help but oblige their command.

Overall, Partie Traumatic is the perfect album for the summertime – light, fun, and occasionally witty synth pop from five pun-loving non-black kids. It was released in the US on July 22.

Greetings faithful readers! I know it’s been too long since we’ve last exchanged contact so here I am to rectify the situation (as per future GM’s orders…). Anywho, enjoy this gem of a story by Mr. Tim Elliott. He’s going to be teacher so you know this is going to be good!

–Megan

Foreword by the Jelliott himself:

Due to a combination of low paying jobs and low motivation I usually don’t pick up all of the hyped new releases. With this column, I’ll procure well reviewed and interesting albums that have slipped past me in the past few years or so and write them up.
One of the major benefits of this strategy is that I’ll be able to incorporate some of the criticism/hype from around the actual time of release and see if the music measures up to it.

The White Stripes “Icky Thump” (June 19th, 2007)

While the increased diversity in ways to listen to, find out about and buy music is certainly a good thing, sometimes the sheer number of bands available prevents any sort of cultural unity. While most critics and fans can agree on a list of the top 10 classic rock bands by decade or half decade, a similar feat would be almost impossible for the music pioneered during the current generation. Too many different styles and personalities to agree upon. Too few musical giants.
Rising above this general confusion are rare, high profile bands like the White Stripes, who are known to virtually every rock fan from the alternative rock-radio junkie to the indie snob. The band garnered a high profile with their third album, 2001’s White Blood Cells, a critical and commercial slam dunk. To secure their position, the band became rock megastars by turning up the guitars on 2004’s justly praised Elephant.
Though following the odd-ball pop of 2005’s marimba-driven Get Behind Me Satan they were on the cusp of irrelevance for most rock fans; likely to be remembered as a band of promise that didn’t quite fulfill their rock star potential and became a serviceable, accessible cult act. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but most of the scattered contemporary artists can be described in such a fashion. So the question remains, can the band stay relevant or will they stick to the marimba?
And that brings us to our first entry,2007’s Icky Thump. Rolling Stone loves to make it sound like Jack White somehow released a mainstream monster with this record, and although they are correct about Jack White’s relative embrace of the mainstream, this ain’t Journey or Nickleback folks. Huge guitars aside, we’re still talking about a band that appears in concert in a candy stripped dress code and scrawls obtuse, wordy essays in their liner notes. Though there may be less marimba, and fewer obscure classic Hollywood references in the lyrics, the record contains quirks aplenty.

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Though some of the time the big “rock star” guitars do over power the underlying the tuneful, poppy goofiness that was the hall mark of Get Behind Me’s best songs a glance through the lyrics sheet reveals that White has lost none of what made him an “artist.” Instead he has learned to combine his trademark quasi-poetic story telling with catchy instrumentals that uses squelcy guitar solos and riffs to drive the point home, abetted by some quirky synthesizer to add texture and grandeur.
The songs on Thump are more reluctant to reveal their quirks, but after multiple listens, it becomes clear that White hasn’t dumbed down at all. while the chorus to “Rag and Bone” rocks as hard as anything they’ve recorded, the ring-master style barked verses, complimented by Meg’s goofy coos, make for quite an odd juxtaposition of hilarious sing-speak and angsty chorus. Perhaps more representative of the album, the stomping title track engages the listener with a thumping guitar boogie and challenging, vague lyrics about an encounter with a questionable Mexican female, among other topics. The bizzarro word play and bone crunching guitars on “I’m Slowly Turnin’ Into You” seem to
benefit from White’s improved sense of song-craft. Occasionally prone to waste a memorable riff on a less than memorable song, White has harnessed his shouted vocals to tell a pretty convincing story of a knotty relationship, using a progressivly increasing glut of details (and the occasional bit of fuzzed out fret work) to transform a potential throw-away into an album highlight.
What Rolling Stone got right was that this is probably the best album to use as an introduction for new fans of the band. “You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do What You’re Told),” is probably the band’s best straight up rock song on the album, if not their entire catalogue; its tuneful chorus and direct, Southern rock tinges compliment White’s vision, resulting an end product that would sound cozy on most classic rock playlists, a fact that no doubt has Jack White beaming with pride. Such lofty status also applies to “A Martyr For My Love For You” White’s most straight forward song about relationships that combines his typically conflicted attitude about love with some Tom Petty indebted story telling.
Since his work on the Cold Mountain soundtrack, White has also branched out into performing American folk music. Wisely relegating his rootsy performances to individual songs, White’s secondary obsession makes the album more listenable. Directly following relatively straight-forward head banger “Bone Broke” is the folksy bagpipe work out “Prickly Thorn, But Sweetly Worn.”
The ‘Stripes haven’t “sold out” by any convention of the word. Following Led Zeppelin’s lead, they’ve wisely packaged their more experimental music alongside their more accessible songs. Each song prompts you to wonder “What’s Next?” I can’t wait for their Physical Graffiti.