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Overlooked Alternatives: new releases for June 7, 2005

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There’s three absolutely huge releases this week (from Coldplay, White Stripes, and Black Eyed Peas) but we’re not concerned with those, are we? Of course not – we’re all looking for a little something different, and while you may have to work a little harder to seek these out, they’ll be worth the trouble.

New Releases:

Dream Theater: Octavarium – Dream Theater is back with album #8, and their fourth with this lineup including Jordan Rudess on keyboards (the keyboard slot being the weak seat in the band.) Apparently the band listened to fan’s comments about the last two extremely hectic, overly chaotic albums and scaled back their penchant for excessive, needless soloing, focusing more on building intriguing song-structures like they used to do – rather than finding excuses to show off. If this album is anything like lead singer James LaBrie’s recent solo album, Elements of Persuasion, it should be a rewarding release.

Danny Cohen: We’re All Gunna Die – Cohen works a kind of outsider-art aesthetic in his unusual pop-songs. Like Dylan at his most uncomfortably nasal, this is not for everyone, but the rewards for patient, open-minded listeners are great. Cohen’s a bit of a mystery – finding information on this guy is pretty tough. He’s been around since rock started, but only has a few albums to his name. His reclusive nature seems to have separated him from his rock contemporaries, as the glimpses one gets of life through a Cohen song seem decidedly out of touch with the world today. It’s like stumbling into a charming, but disorienting and slightly worrisome backwoods town. Cohen’s world probably won’t physically harm you, but it’ll leave you slightly unnerved – but fascinated nonetheless. This might just be the release of the week.

Secret Machines: The Road Leads Where it’s Led – The secret of the Machines is that they have an addictively fun, poundingly-heavy beat that is reminiscent of Led Zeppelin, and they have a penchant for really stretching out their compositions for texture and emphasis. It’s prog-rock without the slightest hint of twee frilliness. Road is an EP with a non-album track, “Better Bring Your Friends,” and covers of Van Morrison’s “Astral Weeks,” the Motown classic “Money (That’s What I Want)” (you decide who of the many, many artists who handled this tune they’re aping,) Dylan’s take on the tradition “Girl from the North Country,” and Harmonia’s “(De Luxe) Immer Wieder.” It doesn’t look absolutely necessary, but certainly worth keeping in the back of your mind for those times when you just want to hear something new and fun.

Reissues:

DJ Shadow: Endtroducing (Deluxe Edition) – The album that made turntables go from being that scratching sound in hip-hop to being an actual instrument capable of expression and bearing the unique identity of an individual musician, Endtroducing is being reissued with the full “Deluxed Edition” treatment – luxurious packaging, dense liner notes, and a second disc full of demos, mixes, and live recordings. This is not to be missed.

Sepultura: Roots – Max Cavalera’s final album with the seminal metal band Sepultura is being given a “deluxe” treatment of sorts by Roadrunner Records, who issue this album in a two-disc edition in honor of their 25th anniversary (isn’t that nice of them? It’s their anniversary and they give you something new to buy! How generous!) Disc one is the album proper and disc two is crammed full of 15 b-sides and unreleased tracks, all in a special digipak.

Fear Factory: Demanufacture – If you want to look back and see when metal changed directions, Demanufacture is the album that could easily be the one that did it. With their previous album, Soul of a New Machine, Fear Factory did something unusual – they released a remix album helmed by Front Line Assembly’s Rhys Fulber. It didn’t set the world on fire then, but when the band returned a couple years later, Fulber was chosen to mix the album outright, instead of focus on a separate remix album. The result was a serious changing of the guard for metal – no longer were beats, keyboards, and other inorganic sounds banned from the process. Fulber filled the band’s sound with electronic flourishes and a muscular, highly digital sound that came along at the right time. Nine Inch Nails were on top of their game and the public wanted anything industrial. Fear Factory, with Fulber pushing them, fused industrial with the already pummelling assualt of speed metal. Metal hasn’t been the same since. Like the Sepultura release above, Roadrunner releases this classic in a deluxe two-disc edition with the second disc consisting of Remanufacture, the remix disc that came out following this album, along with a few rarities.


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About Tom Johnson

  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    i’ve got the Secret Machines EP (havent’ worked up a review yet) and think it’s pretty cool.

    gees, the cover of Money is waaaaaay different.

  • http://www.thebeautifullull.com Tom Johnson

    Cool, Mark, I’ll be looking forward to the review. The disc is, of course, on my ever-growing list o’ things to buy. Out of curiosity, have you heard their first EP, September 000? I wasn’t even sure it was the same band when I heard it, but I like it . . . it’s just what I was expecting.

  • http://www.livejournal.com/users/djradiohead DJRadiohead

    This is an outstanding service, Tom. I plan to pick up the new Dream Theater album (even though this has caused me to be held up for public ridicule by one BC’er). I only had a couple bucks and went with Coldplay and White Stripes. I am not sure how great that decision was. Neither disc is bad but neither is exactly the homerun I was hoping they would be.

  • http://www.thebeautifullull.com Tom Johnson

    DJR: You were probably wise to pass up the Dream Theater – I’m sad to say that it’s just plain not a good album at all. I’m not even one of the hardcore shred-heads, but this is a boring album without those solos. Really, I’d rather hear the band just play and not show-off so much, so when I read that this album lightened up on the seemingly endless soloing that got so old with Train of Thought, I was excited. Wow, what a letdown when I heard it – it’s just boring music. The 24-minute title-track is a complete waste of time, unless you want to hear a bunch of really outdated keyboard sounds (it’s yet another “spot the original that they ripped off” song – Jordan’s keyboard stylings pass through every major prog-group you’ve ever heard. The first 5 minutes are a complete rip off of Pink Floyd’s “Shine On,” and then there’s a bunch of Marillion, and there’s Genesis, and Yes . . . yawn. Jordan’s incredibly talented, but seriously lacking in originality. Not only that, but it’s just a boring song in general.) And “Never Enough” completely apes drummer Mike Portnoy’s latest obsession, Muse, by pretty much entirely copying their far superior “Stockholm Syndrome.” Save your money and buy that Muse album instead – it’s a much, much better listen. Or give James Labrie’s disc a spin – it’s far better than this DT disc.

  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    don’t have that other Secret Machines EP, though since you’ve posted this i accidentally bought the DJ Shadow cd. gees, it’s friggin great.

    i was in a hiphop sorta mood and also bought Digable Planets’ “Blowout Comb”, which is way funky and perhaps worth it for the wacky cover art.

  • toni

    i dont think dream theater were out to rip off any of the above mentioned bands. the album is good music, i hated it on the first listen. started enjoying parts on the second try. then it pretty much took over me from there. but one persons garbage is another persons art (as im not a big muse fan) good heads up on the labrie cd though. hes gained the most respect out of the bunch.

  • Guppusmaximus

    Wow… James Labrie’s solo album was disgusting,”The best out of the bunch”?? I’m sorry but out of any of DTs side projects I would have to say that Liquid Tension Experiment and OSI were probably the best… Dream Theater losing it’s expression of talent through solos and complex song structures, especially with Octavarium, is a big mistake…If I wanted that I would just listen to the Crappy Nu-Metal like Disturbed!! Dream Theater should stick to the “Thinking Man’s Metal” and if you can’t stand to listen to anything complex then maybe you should buy the new Fear Factory garbage instead…

  • http://www.knownjohnson.com Tom Johnson

    Thank you, Guppusmaximus, for helping prove that Dream Theater fans are the most outspoken of music snobs, and also among the most closed-minded. If you can forgive Dream Theater for the many uncredited, note-for-note ripoffs they’ve pulled in recent years, well, I’m amazed – people who love music usually find that pretty offensive.