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Reviews and commentary
 

Selected Ambient Works 85-92 (1992) by Aphex Twin

Categories: 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, and Music.

I am familiar with electronic music up until a point – that point is somewhere in the very early 80s. I have no idea what happened between then and the music we have today (save for the odd track that gets played too much or turned into stadium music). Read More

No Pocky for Kitty (1991) by Superchunk

Categories: 1991 and Music.

This is a set of solid songs that are uptempo and pleasantly loud. I get why this band was a big deal back then because, to my knowledge, this kind of straight-ahead abrasive power pop/pop punk was a relative rarity. But it’s not really my thing. It’s too one note for me, as much as I appreciate what they’re doing and I think they do it well, I just don’t love this particular style of music enough to get really excited about this record. 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

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

Vox Humana? / Finale / Fürst Igor Strawinsky (1991) by Mauricio Kagel, performed by Ensemble 2e2m, Lyon National Opera Chorus conducted by Paul Méfano

Categories: 1979, 1981, 1982, and Music.

This record collects three of Kagel’s longish “choral” pieces. Kagel was a weirdo is the best ways. Listening to Kagel’s work, rather than watching it, is a bit of a problem, because Kagel’s work is often “theatrical” not just in the sense of being influenced by the theatre, but of having the musicians act out parts. Listening to the music online you miss that aspect. (Something big definitely happens 10 minutes in, when there is a giant scream.) That being said… This piece sure reminds me of Berio at his most theatrical (in a good way). It is about a Read More

13 Point Program to Destroy American (1991) by Nation of Ulysses

Categories: 1991 and Music.

Nation of Ulysses takes post hardcore and imbues it with art, humour, other genres of music and even more passion than other post hardcore bands of their era (and some terrible brass!). This is one of those records that is everything I wanted it to be. And I’d rather listen to this – where there is more imagination – than a lot of other post hardcore, a genre I quite like. Pretty great stuff. Also, that’s a fantastic title. 9/10 Read More

Steady Diet of Nothing (1991) by Fugazi

Categories: 1991 and Music.

It has been literally ages (a decade or more) since I heard Repeater but, from my poor memory, I think this is musically much more interesting. (Who knows if that’s true.) I can’t help but liking later records more, though; to my ears they hadn’t quite found that thing, whatever it is, that made them great. Most of the elements are here, but something is missing, and I can’t quite put my finger on it. That’s not to say it’s just okay – it’s quite good and relatively diverse for the genre. I just feel like they improved later, in 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

White Light From the Mouth of Infinity (1991) by Swans

Categories: 1991 and Music.

I have only ever heard one Swans album previously, and I have seen them live once. The cumulative result of that was that I think I can say that they are a band that is an acquired taste and that is more impressive (if not likable) live. This record completely changed my mind. I respect Children of God but I don’t know that I like it…yet. I also respect a band that can be so loud that I wanted earplugs over 100m from the stage while I was outdoors (!). But I don’t know that I like that either. (They Read More

Yerself is Steam (1991) by Mercury Rev

Categories: 1991 and Music.

Mercury Rev combine recent goings on in Shoegaze with psychedelia (to a greater extent than the British Shoegaze bands that inclined that way) and a knack for poppy hooks. The result is a bizarre, perhaps too ambitious, crazy record that is better than anything the Lips had managed up till that point. (Why compare them? Sorry…) To me this stuff is more interesting than the straight Shoegaze; it connects with me more for whatever reason. It does feel like there are more ideas, for one thing. Even if that last track is way too long, this is great stuff. 8/10 Read More

Sailing the Seas of Cheese (1991) by Primus

Categories: 1991 and Music.

Les Claypool is probably the closest rock music has ever come to a “Jimi Hendrix of the bass,” but he will forever be underknown because of his desire to play in his own band and follow his own whims. And those whims are…weird. As others have noted, this is Funk Metal meets Frank Zappa (and other art rock). There are numerous things that might put you off: Claypool’s voice, the sense of humour, the unwillingness to make anything resembling earnest, straightforward rock music (and yet, somehow, this album spawned two minor hit singles…). But these things are actually virtues if Read More

Bullhead (1991) by Melvins

Categories: 1991 and Music.

I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to like Melvins. They make loud music, I like loud music. They have charted their own course regardless of record industry trends. They have collaborated with members of one of my favourite bands. But this, my introduction to the band, and likely one of their most seminal albums, strikes me as quite one note. I get that this is sort of the point (at least at this stage) but I don’t like my metal one-note. I get that this is likely an important record, and I hope that I can give it a little more 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

Arise (1991) by Sepultura

Categories: 1991 and Music.

This is a solid Thrash record. It’s got some great playing and it’s pretty relentless. But I struggle to love it as much as I would like to knowing that they would go on to better things very shortly. And there are only brief hints of their expansive palette of later records that make this kind of samey, which is too its detriment. But I don’t actually dislike it – it’s great stuff, it’s just not quite as good as their later stuff. 7/10 Read More

Recurring (1991) by Spacemen 3

Categories: 1991 and Music.

I understand why people like this stuff and I understand why it’s trailblazing. (Though I’m not exactly sure why some people consider this shoegaze, though that is a different story…) But I have two problems with this record that keep me from giving it the respect a lot of people think it deserves. The first problem is that for something considered “neo-psychedelia” it’s pretty samey throughout. There’s not a lot of variation even between the two band member’s sounds. I mean, there’s some, but it’s relative and very much “on style.” (On a related note: I find it lacking a Read More

A History of Rome – Second Edition (1991, 1994, 1996, 2001) by Marcel Le Glay, Jean-Louis Voisin, Yann Le Bohec, David Cherry

Categories: 1991, 1994, 1996, < 1991 Archives - Riley Haas' Blog
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Reviews and commentary
 

Selected Ambient Works 85-92 (1992) by Aphex Twin

Categories: 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, and Music.

I am familiar with electronic music up until a point – that point is somewhere in the very early 80s. I have no idea what happened between then and the music we have today (save for the odd track that gets played too much or turned into stadium music). Read More

No Pocky for Kitty (1991) by Superchunk

Categories: 1991 and Music.

This is a set of solid songs that are uptempo and pleasantly loud. I get why this band was a big deal back then because, to my knowledge, this kind of straight-ahead abrasive power pop/pop punk was a relative rarity. But it’s not really my thing. It’s too one note for me, as much as I appreciate what they’re doing and I think they do it well, I just don’t love this particular style of music enough to get really excited about this record. 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

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

Vox Humana? / Finale / Fürst Igor Strawinsky (1991) by Mauricio Kagel, performed by Ensemble 2e2m, Lyon National Opera Chorus conducted by Paul Méfano

Categories: 1979, 1981, 1982, and Music.

This record collects three of Kagel’s longish “choral” pieces. Kagel was a weirdo is the best ways. Listening to Kagel’s work, rather than watching it, is a bit of a problem, because Kagel’s work is often “theatrical” not just in the sense of being influenced by the theatre, but of having the musicians act out parts. Listening to the music online you miss that aspect. (Something big definitely happens 10 minutes in, when there is a giant scream.) That being said… This piece sure reminds me of Berio at his most theatrical (in a good way). It is about a Read More

13 Point Program to Destroy American (1991) by Nation of Ulysses

Categories: 1991 and Music.

Nation of Ulysses takes post hardcore and imbues it with art, humour, other genres of music and even more passion than other post hardcore bands of their era (and some terrible brass!). This is one of those records that is everything I wanted it to be. And I’d rather listen to this – where there is more imagination – than a lot of other post hardcore, a genre I quite like. Pretty great stuff. Also, that’s a fantastic title. 9/10 Read More

Steady Diet of Nothing (1991) by Fugazi

Categories: 1991 and Music.

It has been literally ages (a decade or more) since I heard Repeater but, from my poor memory, I think this is musically much more interesting. (Who knows if that’s true.) I can’t help but liking later records more, though; to my ears they hadn’t quite found that thing, whatever it is, that made them great. Most of the elements are here, but something is missing, and I can’t quite put my finger on it. That’s not to say it’s just okay – it’s quite good and relatively diverse for the genre. I just feel like they improved later, in 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

White Light From the Mouth of Infinity (1991) by Swans

Categories: 1991 and Music.

I have only ever heard one Swans album previously, and I have seen them live once. The cumulative result of that was that I think I can say that they are a band that is an acquired taste and that is more impressive (if not likable) live. This record completely changed my mind. I respect Children of God but I don’t know that I like it…yet. I also respect a band that can be so loud that I wanted earplugs over 100m from the stage while I was outdoors (!). But I don’t know that I like that either. (They Read More

Yerself is Steam (1991) by Mercury Rev

Categories: 1991 and Music.

Mercury Rev combine recent goings on in Shoegaze with psychedelia (to a greater extent than the British Shoegaze bands that inclined that way) and a knack for poppy hooks. The result is a bizarre, perhaps too ambitious, crazy record that is better than anything the Lips had managed up till that point. (Why compare them? Sorry…) To me this stuff is more interesting than the straight Shoegaze; it connects with me more for whatever reason. It does feel like there are more ideas, for one thing. Even if that last track is way too long, this is great stuff. 8/10 Read More

Sailing the Seas of Cheese (1991) by Primus

Categories: 1991 and Music.

Les Claypool is probably the closest rock music has ever come to a “Jimi Hendrix of the bass,” but he will forever be underknown because of his desire to play in his own band and follow his own whims. And those whims are…weird. As others have noted, this is Funk Metal meets Frank Zappa (and other art rock). There are numerous things that might put you off: Claypool’s voice, the sense of humour, the unwillingness to make anything resembling earnest, straightforward rock music (and yet, somehow, this album spawned two minor hit singles…). But these things are actually virtues if Read More

Bullhead (1991) by Melvins

Categories: 1991 and Music.

I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to like Melvins. They make loud music, I like loud music. They have charted their own course regardless of record industry trends. They have collaborated with members of one of my favourite bands. But this, my introduction to the band, and likely one of their most seminal albums, strikes me as quite one note. I get that this is sort of the point (at least at this stage) but I don’t like my metal one-note. I get that this is likely an important record, and I hope that I can give it a little more 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

Arise (1991) by Sepultura

Categories: 1991 and Music.

This is a solid Thrash record. It’s got some great playing and it’s pretty relentless. But I struggle to love it as much as I would like to knowing that they would go on to better things very shortly. And there are only brief hints of their expansive palette of later records that make this kind of samey, which is too its detriment. But I don’t actually dislike it – it’s great stuff, it’s just not quite as good as their later stuff. 7/10 Read More

Recurring (1991) by Spacemen 3

Categories: 1991 and Music.

I understand why people like this stuff and I understand why it’s trailblazing. (Though I’m not exactly sure why some people consider this shoegaze, though that is a different story…) But I have two problems with this record that keep me from giving it the respect a lot of people think it deserves. The first problem is that for something considered “neo-psychedelia” it’s pretty samey throughout. There’s not a lot of variation even between the two band member’s sounds. I mean, there’s some, but it’s relative and very much “on style.” (On a related note: I find it lacking a Read More

A History of Rome – Second Edition (1991, 1994, 1996, 2001) by Marcel Le Glay, Jean-Louis Voisin, Yann Le Bohec, David Cherry

Categories: 1991, 1994, 1996, 2001, Books, and Non-Fiction.

This is a general history of Rome meant, I believe, for use in schools as a textbook. It’s written that way anyway, so it’s rather dry. The strength of the book is in the early going when it provides a great deal of pre-history to the empire, pretty much all of which I was unfamiliar with. Another strength is that the authors mostly refuse to speculate, so this is likely an accurate, not one that thrives on biased ancient accounts or on inventing motives for historical actors. But the book has two major weaknesses, even though it has been updated Read More

Everclear (1991) by American Music Club

Categories: 1991 and Music.

These guys are the Kings of Slowcore, so I’ve been told. Not being the biggest devotee of the genre, I have no idea if that’s true. And if I get obsessed about influence and such, I’ll ignore the music here and focus on the fact that slowcore already existed when this came out. (Because, of course it did. These guys supposedly invented it six years earlier.) Ahem. Sorry about that. This set of songs takes a while to ingratiate, which is shocking for a slowcore record. (Kidding, obviously.) But once you listen to it a few times, you realize this Read More

The Adjuster (1991, Atom Egoyan)

Categories: 1991 and Movies.

Full disclosure: I have never been a fan of Atom Egoyan. I have only ever thought one of his movies that I have seen good; that was The Sweet Hereafter and that was years ago, and I have no idea what I’d think of it now. I found at least one of his other films to be abjectly terrible. This one seems very Egoyan-esque and so, from the outset, I am annoyed by it. To its credit, it does seem like it presages the current indie quirky dramedy trend by a few decades, so I guess it’s prescient. And the Read More

Riley’s Breakup Play List Part 3: The Metal Years

Categories: 2014, Music, and Personal.

Very self-respecting music nerd knows for a fact that the Gunners aren’t truly metal, but I like the title. Despite the overwhelming cheese of many of Axl’s contributions to Use Your Illusion, I find his lyrics have a particular relevance to me at this moment of my life, something I really hadn’t imagined possible previously. And so, here we go: “November Rain” This one is now a few days out of date…(And, not coincidentally, I was just at a football game where they felt compelled to play this because, you know, it was raining in November.) For me, it has Read More

Mudslide (1971, 1991 Bootleg) by Led Zeppelin

Categories: 1971 and Music.

This is a pretty strong show – notable for particularly great performances of material from the second album, especially “Thank You”, which can be wussy – but, as someone who has listened to relatively few Zep shows, it’s clear to me that the band improved with time, like a fine wine really. And I find myself generally preferring later, crazier, shows. This is all very professional, and the performance of “Thank You” might be the definitive version, but there are better versions of “Since I’ve Been Loving You” and other material out there. Still well worth listening to, though. 7/10 Read More

Seven Words; Silenzio; In croce (1995) by Sofia Gubaidulina, performed by Maria Kliegel, Elsbeth Moser et al.

Categories: 1995 and Music.

This is just an awesome set of really challenging modern chamber music, sort of smaller versions of what Penderecki was up to, I guess. The set contains three works by Gubaidulina centered around the cello and the bayan, a Russian version of the accordion. “In croce” is a duet for cello and bayan, and ranges from almost horror-movie film score intensity to a sort of meandering exploration of space. And then that builds back – there is a really strong use of dynamics. And the cello really gets into its upper register. I have always had a thing against pieces Read More

The Seasons; Valses de Concert (1991) by Alexander Glazunov, performed by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Kazuyoshi Akiyama

Categories: 1991 and Music.

The Seasons is a pretty great ballet (well, I am making an assumption about the choreography) that is helped by the fact that it predates the great, revolutionary ballets of the early 20th century. This music is absolutely Romantic, one might even call it unapologetically romantic, but that is looking at this whole thing with a great deal of hindsight, as arguably Romantic music was quite killed off as something significant until the end of the decade (at the very earliest). I don’t know my ballets at all, but it’s a nice piece. It’s certainly not among my favourite Romantic compositions Read More

Complete String Quartets (2008) by Philip Glass, performed by the Smith Quartet

Categories: 2008 and Music.

First off, this is no longer ‘complete’ if it ever really was – Glass has apparently written a 6th quartet. (Also, there are other pieces he has written for string quartet that do not appear here, but they are not numbered among his string quartets, apparently.) Glass’ first quartet is a really great piece of music, in part because it doesn’t sound so Glassian as almost all of the rest of his music does. My guess is this was written so early in his development that he had failed to fully establish his style. And normally one might assume that Read More

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