I would have thought I would be hard-pressed to put together a column at this time of year. It seems that the summer is not the drought of review material I previously thought. Then again a right stinker found its way into my pile.
Dream Theater: Systematic Chaos
I delayed reviewing this for a week or so; so I could continue to listen to it in the normal batch of review material. This has to be DT's most accessible album for at least a decade, maybe even longer. Its just absolutely, stunningly good. While there might not be anything as mainstream as "Pull me Under" and the songs are not exactly short, that does not mean it's as turgid as some of them. Of course, I have the special edition with a DVD with the full album in 5.1 surround sound which makes the listening even more of a treat. There is an interesting 90 minute documentary on the making of the album as well.
The most accessible track for non-DT fans is "The Dark Eternal Night" which is Metallica if they went to Berklee College of Music instead of learning it on the road. Needless to say this is essential for all fans of DT, power-prog or even just good metal. A definite contender for album of the year.
Rap metal when at its best can bring something interesting to the table whether in the form of Faith no More or daftness from Anthrax. Alas, there are a whole bunch of bands that jumped on the bandwagon. This is one of those. This lot combine all that is bad about metal and gangsta rap. You have a nice selection of brain dead paranoia, misogyny, violence towards women and a liberal dose of expletives. It's unmitigated shite that is so bad it beggars belief. No redeeming features whatever.
At one point the rapper wonders if he is surrounded by idiots, while ranting about conspiracies, I think he only needs to look around the studio.
Greg Lake: Live
Greg Lake, of Emerson Lake & Palmer fame, playing the tracks he is best known for including "Fanfare for a Common Man", "In the Court of the Crimson King" and "21st Century Schizoid Man". Excellent pomp rock played amazingly well in the live setting. The record is rather good and there is no excess of on-stage chatter, nor crowd noise. If you like Greg Lake then this might be just the thing for you. For everyone else it's a rather good ten track introduction to a very talented man. Most enjoyable one has to say.
Prince: Planet Earth
With this release Prince did his best to annoy the entire record business in one go. He released the CD in the UK free with the purchase of the Daily Mail on Sunday. This is the complete album not just highlights or some other con. People wonder why he did it; I suspect that it might be the fourteen night stand he is doing at the O2 centre here in London. And like many musicians and bands who have been around for a while this album smacks of "excuse to tour".
It's not horrid but there are a few tracks on here which aren't his best. The title track ranking up there in that stakes. Its a mostly mellow affair, not much on here that rivals his older ballsier stuff. All in all I have to say I rather enjoyed this CD. My favourite track has to be his ode to his instrument and by that I mean his guitar, called "Guitar."
Nevertheless I suspect this will be remembered far more for the barrier it has broken in distribution than its contents.
Silverchair: Young Modern
Got a confession to make. I used to think this lot were a bunch of Nirvana clones signed to jump on the bandwagon with a pretty boy on lead. Never rated their early albums. Lets just say this lot have grown up a wee bit and release quite a nice little CD. Its got oodles of charm, humour and rocks rather nicely. To say I was rather shocked at its quality is an understatement. There isn't a hint of grunge anywhere to be found.
There are songs about playing twister nude sung in a jaunty way that comes across as a cross between the Monkeys and Tiny Tim. It shouldn't work though it does, "If you keep losing sleep" is most fun. Other tracks on here remind me of Canadian AOR band Harem Scarem. Pop rock melodies that are catchy and immediate. This album is tight, professional and oozing class. Check out "Insomnia" and tell me it doesn't bring a smile.
Stormtroopers: Rise of the Infidels
This is a 24 track EP from the veteran daft metal punkers all but four of which were recorded at the Fenix in Seattle. Known for their short and not so sweet songs about things…like the various "ballads" about dead celebs this EP shows them in all their bone-head glory. Also known for offending a few people with their track "Speak English or Die" then continue in that vein with tracks like "Fuck the Middle East" and "Pussywhipped".
S.o.D., the supergroup that they are, specialise in the most un-PC stuff going. However they don't take themselves too seriously and have a great deal of fun. The new tracks are fun as well, if you don't like em' a new one will be along in less than 2 minutes. The perfect album for when you are drunk as a skunk and want something to crank. Needless to say if you are a fan…this is essential.
Well that is your lot for this week. It's not often you are completely shocked by a release. As always, stay safe and rocking. If you can, seek and see live music as often as possible.