Glee (1997) by Bran Van 3000

Categories: 1997 and Music.

I love genre-bending. A number of my most favourite bands are bands that can play a wide variety of genres well, and make these genres sound like their own (or, alternatively, convince you they are an entirely different band). So I should like this. I should like this even though it is based in music I don’t personally love (electronic, hip hop). Read More

Honey’s Dead (1992) by The Jesus and Mary Chain

Categories: 1992 and Music.

I should never read anything before I listen to a record, especially a record by a band I don’t love. I heard why they called it Honey’s Dead and suddenly my head was filled of dreams of reinvention. But no, it’s still very obviously The Jesus and Mary Chain. Only this time they’ve gone Madchester (I think). Read More

Generation Terrorists (1992) by Manic Street Preachers

Categories: 1992 and Music.

What do we do with a record like this? It’s called Generation Terrorists but sounds like it was produced by Mutt Lange or Bob Rock or someone like that. (Well, the production is maybe not that bad.) We have the bizarre amalgam of 80s hard rock (or “cock rock” as some call it) with extremely political lyrics that belong in punk songs. Is the idea to make super accessible and conventional music but to sneak in the lyrics so that young, impressionable youth are converted? I mean, if that’s the goal here, I’m not sure how much it succeeds. How Read More

We Became Snakes (1986) by Saccharine Trust

Categories: 1986 and Music.

A lot has been made of the latent jazz influences on hardcore and post hardcore bands – Black Falg is supposed to have listened to Free Jazz for example. But never was I expecting a hardcore band to make music you might actually confuse with jazz. There are times on this bizarre, crazy record that you could possibly mistake these guys for one of the “Downtown” NYC jazz combos trying to incorporate punk and metal into their music in the 80s. But then, the lyrics come back, and you are reminded that this is indeed rock music. This is a Read More

The Dresden Dolls (2003)

Categories: 2003 and Music.

This is some pretty good stuff. I can understand why some people don’t love it, as Palmer’s delivery is often extremely affected. But that’s sort of the point, isn’t it? I mean, this is cabaret rock, it should be at least a little bit theatrical, right? Palmer’s songs are mostly great, even when they (often) borrow lyrics from famous songs from the past. She does an excellent job of combining a theatrical side with confessional songwriting that feels honest and, in its best moments, revealing. Pretty good, pretty good. 7/10 Read More

What Would The Community Think? (1996) by Cat Power

Categories: 1996 and Movies.

This is a solid collection of rootsy indie music. Her songs are strong and the arrangements are idiosyncratic, albeit not anywhere near as idiosyncratic as was becoming common in the indie world. I have always thought I should get into Cat Power but, though I like this record, I find it kind of innocuous. It’s fine, but I don’t know that my impression will last and, at least at this moment, I cannot see myself rushing back to it any time soon. 7/10 Read More

Still Feel Gone (1991) by Uncle Tupelo

Categories: 1991 and Music.

Before Uncle Tupelo, I feel like alt country (such as it was) was so much cleaner. Despite the ostensible punk influence on the genre, the alt country records I’ve heard from the last 80s are all pretty much straight up country rock. There’s more of an edge here, even if it isn’t much of one compared to some later alt country bands. It’s a strong set of songs and one reason I prefer these guys to Son Volt is because I like the two competing songwriters, I think it made them better. 8/10 Read More

Laughing Stock (1991) by Talk Talk

Categories: 1991 and Music.

Though Hex is generally considered the official beginning of post rock, you could make a very strong argument that post rock begins with this record. Already very much hinting at it on Spirit of Eden, the music here is often even less recognizable as rock music, with entire songs seemingly barely existing as actual pieces, in a way that had little precedent in popular music prior to this band. The jazz influence is perhaps even more pronounced this time out, but though some or even all of these songs were initially recorded as if they were free jazz, the results Read More

Trompe Le Monde (1991) by Pixies

Categories: 1991 and Music.

With hindsight this feels like a step between the earlier Pixies records and Frank Black’s solo career, which would make sense. To me, though, it suffers in that sense, lacking the strongest songs of either earlier Pixies records or Black’s early solo albums, but produced almost if it was one of his solo records. That’s not to say I dislike it – it’s still the Pixies doing what they do best pretty well. I just feel like it’s their weakest record and it very much feels like a transitional one for their main songwriter. 7/10 Read More

Raise (1991) by Swervedriver

Categories: 1991 and Music.

This is a strong shoegaze set with roots a little more on the rock side of things (there’s a CCR riff in the opening track…) than what I’m used to, and I must say that endears this to me more than the more famous shoegaze bands I’ve heard previously. There’s still the sort of laconic thing vocal thing that irks me when I don’t love the music, but enjoying the music more than other shoegaze helps. It’s interesting; they straddle this line between shogegaze and more American alternative that I never really imagined. 7/10 Read More

Pretty on the Inside (1991) by Hole

Categories: 1991 and Music.

This is a noisy, abrasive set of songs which manages to be significantly more noisy than most of the other grunge bands of the era, at least on record.. That feels like even more of an accomplishment given the expectations around a female-fronted band at the time. I can’t say that I love the songs all that much, but I appreciate the seeming unwillingness to compromise (which seems to have been revealed as something very different through interviews). Pretty great stuff. 8/10 Read More

Sublime (1996)

Categories: 1996 and Music.

Sublime is frat boy rock: just musical and lyrical sophistication to appear like it is interesting music, but with enough sex and drugs and reggae to appeal the young man that is not yet been turned into a proper adult. The melodies are strong and the fusion of reggae, hip hop, alternative rock is relatively unique (and is accomplished, absolutely). But the lyrics lose their appeal once you pass 25 or so (or, you know, if you’re a woman) and go through being kind of amusing and seemingly clever to problematic. And the record as a whole just isn’t that Read More

Sebadoh III (1991)

Categories: 1991 and Music.

Without having heard the two previous albums, and not being familiar enough with the evolution of home recordings in the ’80s, I still feel confident in saying that I think this album is a pretty big deal; it’s influence on 90s indie rock, indie folk and the lo-fi movement in general is rather immense. Along with early Pavement, this feels like the blueprint for so much American indie rock in the 90s well into this century. There are two problems for me that keep it from being an absolute classic: The first is the sheer length of this record. Like Read More

Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge (1991) by Mudhoney

Categories: 1991 and Music.

This is a strong, particularly grungy grunge record, with a bit more of a roots feel than some of the other grunge records from the period. I really like the aesthetic – especially because it is a little more musically diverse than I was expecting – but I find the songs not quite up to par compared to some of the other major grunge bands. (For example, Ten has way better songs but has dated horribly compared to this record.) Maybe I’ll come to like the songs more in time, but I still like the record a lot and I Read More

Jon-Rae and the River Knows What You Need (2006)

Categories: 2006 and Music.

At some level, it’s understandable why a certain section of Toronto’s (and Canada’s?) music critics lost their minds over this band back in 2006. There probably weren’t a lot of bands like this at the time, I suppose. And from listening to this record, I can imagine they are a good live band. I can imagine that, if you like energy in your shows above everything else, they are probably a great live band. But… Revivalism is revivalism and this band revives others’ music. They revive it very well, and the energy translates a lot better than you might have Read More

Temple of the Dog (1991)

Categories: 1991 and Music.

I have generally liked Cornell’s songs more than not and he has a good voice. But there’s an earnestness (for lack of a better word) to his music that can be unappealing. He can, at times, sound like he should have been belting out classic rock songs instead of grunge. When Soundgarden is around to hide his over-singing and to give a little more muscle to his songs, I have zero problem with Cornell. The problems emerge, for me, when he is backed by a softer band. For example, though I didn’t mind Audioslave’s first hit (am I the only Read More

The Reality of My Surroundings (1991) by Fishbone

Categories: 1991 and Music.

When I first heard Mr. Bungle, it sounded to me like it had come out of nowhere – this crazy amalgam of ska, metal video games, porn, crass humour and, as I would learn later, Frank Zappa. I was 19 (I think), and so it really, really appealed to me. Since then, I’ve realized that at least some of what Bungle was doing was not just indebted to Zappa, but was indebted heavily to some more comedy-oriented bands of the ’80s. But listening to Fishbone for the first time, it feels like the real influence on Bungle’s debut was Fishbone. Read More

Rope-a-Dope (1994)

Categories: 1994 and Music.

This murky, kind of lo-fi record at times reminds me of a lo-fi Eleven. But I feel like such a comparison is a real disservice to Antietam who are, to my ears, a far more varied and capable band than Eleven, even if the husband-wife things it an easy comparison. This is a band that’s a little too lo-fi to be considered mainstream “alternative.” And the range they show here makes me really regret my initial comparison to Eleven and how that’s sort of dominated my thinking about them. This is one of those solid indie rock records that features Read More

3-Way Tie (for Last) (1986) by Minutemen

Categories: 1985 and Music.

I have come to the Minutemen completely backwards. I have been a fIREHOSE fan for quite some time but am only now getting to the point of listening to these guys and of course I listen to their last album… Anyway, this is a set of rock songs (and song fragments) that varies from righteous anger about US politics to reflections on the nature of story-telling, with a bunch of covers (from literally all over the place). The music is pretty typical post-hardcore with the kind of silly, mild experimentation that makes so much American ’80s alternative music great. Though Read More

Different Class (1995) by Pulp

Categories: 1995 and Music.

It’s incredible to me to listen to this immediately after Morning Glory and to hear so much more energy, verve and immediacy from a band that, on paper, should be significantly less exciting than Oasis. Anyway… I wasn’t sure what I would think about this record, but I appreciate the synth pop influence that is presenting, but hardly dominant, at a time when “guitar rock” was far trendier. A number of the songs are just so damn insistent and catchy I like them in spite of myself. And Cocker’s lyrics, sex-obsessed as they are, are intelligent and clearly personal, even Read More

(What’s the Story) Morning Glory? (1995) by Oasis

Categories: 1995 and Movies.

When I was 14, this album was relatively ubiquitous, but not to the extent of some other records I’ve listened to recently. I only know about 3 of the songs, I think. But those 3 songs never made me want to listen to Oasis. I never really had any desire. Other bands I ignored when I was a teenager had a great deal of appeal to me later (Pearl Jam in particular, but also Blind Melon, Blur, Nirvana, Soundgarden, and on and on…) but I have never heard an Oasis song and thought “wow, I really need to listen to Read More

Ritual de lo habitual (1990) by Jane’s Addiction

Categories: 1990 and Music.

I don’t know what I was expecting when I finally got around to listening to this record, but it wasn’t this. That is sometimes a good thing, sometimes a bad thing. But expectations always mess with our appreciation. Hopefully I can get through mine. First of all, I finally understand why Navarro is a guitar hero to a certain generation. I had never understood why before, but had rarely heard him play. Aside from Slash (who is, by the way, much better), I can’t think of another guitar player to embrace classic rock guitar like Navarro does here. That’s pretty Read More

The 2015 Wolfe Island Music Festival August 7-8, 2015

Categories: 2015 and Music.

The annual pilgrimage to WIMF got off to a bit of an uneven start but ended up being one of the better festivals I have attended over the last half decade or so. On Friday night, we arrived to catch the end of Daniel Romano’s rather sedate country set. Romano had been to WIMF a few years earlier, but I missed him. This time he was on the Main Stage. It was pleasant music but nothing that made me want to go out and by a record. Romano was followed by Elliott Brood, a band I saw 3(?) years ago, Read More

The Alchemy Index: Volume III and Volume IV – Air and Earth (2007) by Thrice

Categories: 2007 and Music.

Unfortunately Volume III takes the brief moments of Volume II that alluded to a sort of Post Grunge / “Modern” rock style and takes them to the logical conclusion. I guess some people would consider these songs “stronger” – they’re certainly catchier – by why neuter what your band does well? At least the rhythm section is way better than your standard everyday rock band. It’s certainly a bit of a departure from what I thought this band sounded like, and I guess that’s fine if you like ballads and stuff. I feel like I’m being too hard on it. Read More

Green (1989) by REM

Categories: 1989 and Music.

When I first got into REM, my friends who got me into REM told me Green was the worst album. And so I didn’t listen to it for over 20 years. (Makes sense, right?) I do know a few songs from a mixtape a friend made me, but that’s less than half of the tracks.I think you could say this is the second REM album where Stipe was singing “properly” (to hear him tell it) and that was both a good thing and a bad thing, since a lot of the appeal of their early albums is the mystery from Read More

Lightning Bolt (2013) by Pearl Jam

Categories: 2013 and Music.

After Backspacer I was ready to give up. Most of my friends who like Pearl Jam were too. But I heard “Mind Your Manners” and I was willing to give it a chance, as this sounded significantly more energized – and less obviously trendy – than the music from the previous album. So I finally found my way to it and all I can say is that, while at least some of it feels more energized than Backspacer, it again feels like lesser Pearl Jam, and not really worthy of much attention after I finish my usual three listens. Though Read More