Review of Nine Inch Nails: Pretty Hate Machine

Please read Alain DuPuis’ selection article of Nine Inch Nails: Pretty Hate Machine before reading our reviews below.
 
Summary: 
Trent Reznor’s Nine Inch Nails is definitely one of the most influential bands in the past 25 years in the alternative music scene. There is no denying that fact. However, Trent started as many of us do, by learning the ropes in your chosen career. He recorded this album while he worked as a janitor in a recording studio. Some artists explode onto a scene and release a first album that is classic. Pretty Hate Machine is not exactly that classic first album that nailed it. Though Alain loved it, even he admits that it was a little repetitive and basic.
 
We all had very different opinions here but we all had very strong opinions, which is good. Read the reviews below and laugh and cry with us about this album.
 
As always, the meat is in the individual reviews but here are some themes we saw from all the reviews.
 
What was cool about this album:

  • It is a glimpse into where NIN would end up, but sounds so basic now.
  • Something I Can Never Have was liked by a few of us.
  • It introduced industrial music to a new crowd as it was played in top 40 dance clubs. It was more approachable than contemporaries Skinny Puppy, KMFDM and Ministry.

 
What we didn’t find so cool:

  • The sound is a bit dated and cheesy(But pretty much all of the 80s was cheesy. Ha ha ha)
  • The songs were quite basic and repetitive
  • Why does Reznor yell words randomly?

We have also implemented a rating scale that you will see below in the reviews. All ratings are out of 5.
 
Our Reviews Average:
Overall opinion: 2.5
Would we recommend?: 3
Influenced our tastes: 3
Worth the hype? 3
 
Read our full individual reviews below. 
Don’t agree with us? Have a comment or suggestions? We’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment or contact us.

Our Full Reviews

alain-dupuisAlain DuPuis’s Review – This was Alain’s Pick

Maybe I was already biased, or maybe it’s because in the wake of some personal dealings over the summer, this album just really hit home for me – whatever the reason, Pretty Hate Machine had me at hello. The juxtaposition of aggressive, raw noises, inelegant, but emotionally charged vocals, and meticulously calculated production on this album created a springboard that launched Trent Reznor’s career as an icon. Pretty Hate Machine really defines the industrial music genre. Heavy use of samples, synths, dark themes, and plenty of aggression are present, but somehow the album still remains more accessible to the average listener than anything contemporaries like KMFDM, Skinny Puppy, or Ministry had to offer at the time.
 
I liked:
Every single track on the album was solid, but Terrible Lie, That’s What I get, and Something I Can Never Have really hit home. Particularly the latter – it showed the clearest hints of the more refined and melodic path Nine Inch Nails would ultimately take in later albums.
 
Down In It is extremely catchy and sounds upbeat, despite being a pretty dark/depressing song. It even appeared on a number of underground dance mixes back in the day, earning NIN exposure to an unlikely fanbase.
 
I didn’t like:
After a number of repeated listenings, it became pretty clear there was a fair bit of repetition in a number of tracks on the album. Chalk it up to a symptom of using synth loops as a primary means of instrumentation. Additionally, some of the synth lines were quite basic and simple, which doesn’t really help matters.
 
Final thoughts
As a longtime fan of NIN, it was a lot of fun for me to go back and explore their first album in depth. Hints of what was to come in subsequent releases were already present on Pretty Hate Machine. A shift from cold, hard, mechanized, syncopated sounds would eventually give way to more layered, thoughtful, and melodic music, which makes taking a trip through the entire Nine Inch Nails library something I’d highly recommend.
 
Give a listen to the 2010 remastered version of Pretty Hate Machine for best results.
 
Overall opinion: 5
Would I recommend?: 5
Influenced my tastes: 5
Worth the hype? 5
 
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Scott Coates’s Review
I like rock, hard rock, some electronic music, but sometimes the combination just doesn’t work for me. Case in point: Linkin Park – I’ve never gotten it; the sound just doesn’t gel, despite it having the elements I usually enjoy in music. It’s strange how a format of music and band you should like on paper sometimes just doesn’t add up to a pleasing sound. Unfortunately this seems to be the case with Nine Inch Nails (NIN).
 
For years I thought I liked NIN, more in concept, with a respect for the ‘genius’ of Trent Reznor I’d read about. Looking back, I tried many times to listen to NIN and appreciate their work, but rarely got through an entire album. Nor did I go back for another listen to finish an album. I now know why: I don’t like NIN.
 
I feel a little embarrassed writing the above, as many of my peers and friends enjoy NIN, they are a band and concept I fundamentally buy in to, but after listening to Pretty Hate Machine a few times there’s no way around it, I don’t like this album or band.
 
Released in 1989 and having been highly experimental at the time, Pretty Hate Machine’s sound is dated and doesn’t stand the test of time. None of the tracks particularly stand out, and after a full pass, I felt as though I’d listened to one very long song. The lyrical themes are repetitive, depressing, and there’s nothing that got me in any kind of groove. Perhaps this is an album for those contemplating the end of the world and their place in it?
Several times I found the synthesizers on Pretty Hate Machine reminding me of a soundtrack for a 1980s skateboard movie where the kids are being chased by the bad guys down an alley. I don’t skateboard and didn’t like that movie when it came out way back then.

Head Like a Hole
is as close to liking a song on this album as I can get, but it even grates on me to a degree. The other tracks are a bit like listening to a rake being dragged across a concrete sidewalk. I’m simply puzzled by Pretty Hate Machine and don’t know what to make of it. I feel as though I’ve failed with this month’s selection but just can’t make it work for me.
 
I’m more curious why I don’t like NIN or Pretty Hate Machine? There’s high creativity, hard rock/guitar elements, some overlaying electronic depth, it was very unique at the time, and the rest of the world seems to worship Trent Reznor’s work. But it’s painful for me to listen to. This surely shouldn’t be the case. But as the saying goes, “You can’t be all things to all people.” Perhaps music is the same and this one just isn’t going to do it for me, ever, despite wanting it to.
 
Overall opinion: 1
Would I recommend?: 2
Influenced my tastes: 2
Worth the hype?: 2
 
Darren Scott
Darren Scott’s Review 
Nine Inch Nails. Trent Reznor. I will admit that I had heard this album back when it came out. I did find it catchy and it was played in dance clubs at that time. The sound in the late 80s at that time was young, so it isn’t just this album that sounds a bit dated and cheesy now. I wasn’t a big fan of the goth alternative industrial sound as much at that time but appreciated the different sound. I remember lots of the all-black-clothing kids loving Skinny Puppy, the influential Canadian band from Vancouver at that time. I liked some songs like Assimilate and Smothered Hope but found the rest too weird for my young ears at that time. Give Skinny Puppy a listen here now:

 
I found NIN and Pretty Hate Machine more approachable and I liked that his rhythm in the songs was more uptempo, organized and danceable. I get now that this wasn’t what Reznor was trying to do and that he was one angry and jaded bastard back then. He basically took influences of rock and industrial and reproduced the sound he heard at that time. Compared to later albums like The Downward Spiral and With Teeth this album does indeed show it’s lack of polish and originality that Trent became known for. However, you can hear the humble beginnings of where NIN came from and you hear parts of songs on Pretty Hate Machine that Reznor would later refine and turn into mind-blowing tracks.
 
Knowing that Reznor actually disliked this album himself greatly and actually tried to get it stopped from future production shows his self-awareness that these songs were not his finished sounds and songs he wanted to be remembered for. It is comparable to someone finding a classic authors notes and scribbles about a great book but with no organization. The author would hate it if you tried to decipher their classic story from these unfinished scribbles. Only when properly organized into chapters that then tell an amazing story does a book form. Pretty Hate Machine was a bit like those scribbles. You get glimpse of great sounds, songs and a musician but it never came together as a great book(album).
 
All that being said, though it wasn’t what Reznor wanted, it was a catchy album and that was the sound of the late 80s. It was also more approachable than Skinny Puppy and introduced an alternative style to kids who mostly heard top 40 at the club. I do like this album and can relate and dance to it even though in hindsight Reznor went on to produce much better albums. It was like getting a look into where NIN came from, and I liked that. Worth a listen but make sure to listen to the other albums too.
 
Overall opinion: 3
Would I recommend?: 3
Influenced my tastes: 3
Worth the hype? 4
 
Greg-JorgensenGreg Jorgensen’s Review
My first experience with NIN was a poster in High School. It was actually more of a banner – easily 8ft tall, a picture of Trent Reznor holding his hands up to his face, each clad in shiny black latex or leather. I don’t know who got it or from where, but it hung in the drama room for months. It was mesmerizing – sexy and dangerous and full of mystery. Granted, I was a shy drama geek in a hick town in the prairies, but still.
 
NIN is an important band, no doubt about it. PHM was largely responsible for laying the groundwork for the modern sounds of industrial rock/metal/rap, all genres which I enjoy to varying degrees, and NIN has continued to lead the charge in the evolution of that genre. I love what Reznor does, I love his style, his durability, his work outside of NIN (like film scores), his tech-savviness, and his wife (have you seen her?) But Pretty Hate Machine…not so much.
 
I’ve listened to NIN’s hits on and off over the years, never really digging them enough to listen to any albums all the way through, so I was eager to dive into this one. While I can say that I really enjoy the broader image and sound of NIN, this album didn’t do it for me at all. It was like brushing your teeth or drinking a glass of water – you remember doing it, and both are important parts of their respective oeuvres (music, dental care, living), but there was absolutely nothing that stood out about about it, nothing that made it unique or memorable. It just was.
 
“Head Like a Hole” is an effective, energetic opener and sets the pace for what’s to come…but it’s hard to remember when that song stopped and the next one began. In fact, beyond the spooky, melancholic, atmospheric ending of “Sanctified” and the bridge into “Something I Can Never Have”, I’d struggle to describe any particular song or moment on the entire album. I’m not sure if “ironic” is the right word, but the only thing about PHM that I found unique or memorable was its existence. For me, definitely a matter of the forest being more interesting than the trees.
 
Overall opinion: 2
Would I recommend?: 3
Influenced my tastes: 3
Worth the hype?: 3
 
Scott GregoryScott Gregory’s Review

So I had a chat with Darren about this album, and he mentioned Trent wasn’t super happy with his earliest work, and would like it to vanish off shelves. I sort of agree. I’m a bit of a tourist when it comes to NIN, but I know enough of his later work to know how sucky the first chunk sounds in contrast.
 
I just couldn’t get into this. My tastes drift more to Depeche Mode, Revolver, Econoline Crush, and other more-polished sounds in this space. The best thing I can say about this is that, Reznor probably sounded exactly the same shouting into a crappy studio mic as he did in concert, so nobody would have been disappointed by any drop in quality between studio/live.
 
Were there really only five years between this and Downward Spiral? Did he go to Devry for song writing in between and get his money’s worth? I don’t mean to be overly critical, but I’m a little mad I can’t get into this album. There’s just nothing for me to latch on to. I don’t like the lyrics, the loops, the guitar riffs, or even the “Devil’s Pink Paintbrush/Pitchfork” cover.
 
Let’s get into some highlights on the songs, shall we?
 

Head Like a Hole

Holy crap, could this song be any more repetitive? The first 30 seconds were ok, but then I had to listen to them over and over again. This song isn’t AABA, it’s AAAAAAABAAAAAAABA. No I can’t take it, can’t take it, you can take this song away from me.
 

Sanctified

Ooo, ominous plucky base, this is going to be an edgy song. I can’t wait for the lyrics. Oooh, girls touching with fingertips, I like where this is going. “If she says come inside, I’ll come inside for her”? Oh you cheeky monkey, I see what you did there. This is so edgy, they almost had to cut it from the performance on the Muppet Show. Please refund me 5:48. Thanks.
 

Ringfinger

Ok, it starts out a little Depeche Modey, which is good. Oh no, he’s doing that “shout every sixth word thing” again. Why you mad bro? You have a cool keyboard you can use to cover better bands if you wanted. That has to be a bit of a cheery thought?
 
Ok, so maybe I’m looking at this from decades later, and some of this could have been fresh and new when he did it, instead of feeling trite and formulaic. Does he deserve some nod if he was one of the originators of a successful formula I’ve eventually grown tired of? I think of his precursors in this space, and I’m thinking the answer is no.
 
Future-Trent puts out some pretty polished and laudable work, but proto-Trent just isn’t my cup of tea. Maybe he’s yours; give it a listen and you can at least play the “take a shot every time he shouts only one word in a sentence” drinking game.
 

By the numbers

Overall opinion: 2
Would we recommend?: 2
Influenced my tastes: 1
Worth the hype? 1

Review of Stevie Wonder: Innervisions

Stevie Wonder - Scott Coates

Please read Scott Coates’ selection article of Stevie Wonder: Innervisions before reading our reviews below.
Summary: 
The reviews of this classic album are in, and well, we all had different takes at what this album meant and how much we liked it. Personally, I (Darren) like when I get to read these reviews as you really get so many perspectives. As in this selection, I really had troubles connecting to the music but others had such glowing reviews it mage me wonder how on this one it doesn’t connect to me but it does with both of the Scotts. It also demonstrates how you can have an appreciation for the music but you might just not like it personally. You don’t need a reason, you just like it or you don’t.
One thing we all agreed was that Stevie Wonder is a legend and that not only should you listen to Innervisions but you should take time to get to know the stories of Stevie Wonder and enjoy his entire catalogue.
As always, the meat is in the individual reviews but here are some themes we saw from all the reviews.
What was cool about this album:

  • Stevie Wonder wrote all the songs and pretty much played every instrument on the album. Um.. yeah… that’s talent.
  • Higher Ground. A classic song that deserves the praise it receives. It’s funky, fun and kicks ass.
  • Stevie’s bravery and passion to send then US President Richard Nixon a political message in his songs on the state of America and the challenges of racism and corrupt power.
  • Through his music and voice Stevie influenced a mountain of artists with this album.

What we didn’t find so cool :

  • Some of us found the sound of the synthesizer dated and that it didn’t translate well when played now.
  • The flow of the album was sometimes sporadic as it was a concept album that was trying to tell a story but a few of us felt it just sounded disconnected.
  • Though Higher Ground was fast, funky and fun, many of the other tracks were more ballad oriented and slow.
  • Though we appreciated the album our white guy panel mostly all admitted this music didn’t really influence our tastes. Our next members definitely need to be more varied and we need some women!

We have also implemented a rating scale that you will see below in the reviews. All ratings are out of 5.
Our Reviews Average:
Overall opinion: 3
Would we recommend?: 4
Influenced our tastes: 2
Worth the hype? 4
Read our full individual reviews below. 
Don’t agree with us? Have a comment or suggestions? We’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment or contact us.

Our Full Reviews

smcoates-About-Picture-200x300
Scott Coates’s Review – This was Scott’s Pick
I wasn’t sure what to expect while listening to Innervisions. Stevie Wonder is an artist I felt I’d known my entire life, but after thinking about it, I only knew a few of his singles that charted since the early Eighties. Knowledge of these few tracks hardly constitute knowing an artist who many consider to be one of the musical greats and listening to Innervisions has given me a much deeper appreciation for his work and brilliance.
Innervisions serves as a time capsule of the early Seventies, with highly charged political lyrics that capture the social landscape of the time. At the same time the grooves are deep throughout, managing to peak the listener’s conscious while entertaining, not an easy feat. I’m not a person who is usually able to understand or digest lyrics easily and I found Innervisions radiated fully, both musically and lyrically.
The music itself is great. From slow ballads like Visions to floor-stompers like Higher Ground, each track kept me tapping my toes, and I looked forward to subsequent listens. To think that Wonder played most of the instruments himself is truly incredible. And then there are the lyrics. While I think I roughly know the history of the African American struggle, the album added a rich layer to my knowledge. Living for the City is a track I’d heard, but never really paid enough attention to. Hearing the background of a man arriving in New York City, only to get caught up in a drug deal and tossed in to prison for 10 years had great impact.
It’s rare that an album can turn out captivating sounds, make social statements, and generate hit singles. Innervisions manages to do all these things and sounds as good today as I’m sure it did more than 40 years ago. It’s a work that radiated with me, has instilled a greater appreciation of the artist, and every music lover should give a spin at least a couple times. Stop reading and hit ‘Play’.
Overall opinion: 4
Would I recommend?: 4
Influenced my tastes: 4
Worth the hype?: 4
 
Darren Scott
Darren Scott’s Review 
Ok, I want to get across that these reviews are really tough. Here are the 3 main reasons they are so tough:

  1. You have to keep in focus that you just have to review the album selected and not the complete works of the artist.
  2. You have to listen to these albums while mentally projecting yourself back to the year and state of the world when they were made but also judging if they still hold up as great music now.
  3. You have to try to be objective but stay true to who you are and the music you like.

I felt I had to cover these reasons above as I want to say that I really like Stevie Wonder and love many of his songs, but I really struggled to connect with Innervisions.
It was great to read about the album and how he basically played all the instruments and wrote and sang all the music (Maybe this is where Dave Grohl got his idea for the Foo Fighters?). It was also interesting to find out about the impact this album had on the future of black music and the ARP synthesizer he used which was cutting edge at the time of release in 1973. I’m a sucker for a great story of an album but I also have to connect to the music. That’s where this album didn’t connect with me.
Though I could appreciate what Stevie was doing with this album, and I know that at the time the sound was fresh, I really found most of the songs too sporadic for my taste and the concept album and political and social issues were lost on me. I will admit that I don’t usually like much slower music like ballads so that will play a factor here as well.
I did like Higher Ground and Don’t you Worry ‘bout a Thing very much, as these are some of his best songs and as I listened to this album through several times I just caught myself waiting to hear these two songs. I did also like lots of the elements of some songs when Stevie would lay down some of his signature funk progressions.
Overall, I just found the sound too dated and that it didn’t hold up as well in current times with exception of the two songs I liked. But hey, having 2 big hits on an album is more than most so this is definitely worth a listen. This was more just a personal taste thing for me but I can’t say I’d ever put that album on again to listen as a whole. Thanks for everything Stevie.
Overall opinion: 3
Would I recommend?: 3
Influenced my tastes: 2
Worth the hype? 4
 
alain-dupuisAlain DuPuis’s Review 

This was the first time I’ve ever given anything from Stevie Wonder a serious listen, and I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. With an open mind, I hit play, and was instantly taken by the warmth of the production. I was very surprised to learn that the album was recorded in 1973. Maybe I’m listening to a re-mastered version, but whatever. It sounds lovely. My second thought was “DAMN. Stevie is one seriously talented individual!” His voice is smoother than the lines on a new Porsche. Instrumentally, this album is equally impressive. The guitars are fantastic. The synthesizers are pretty good too, though it’s gotta be said – the sound of the moog really dates the music, serving as a reminder that this album is from the early 70s.
Despite all its strengths, the thing is that I just couldn’t get into it. I can appreciate the hell out of it for how good it sounds. It’s just not at all my cup of tea. Too funky, maybe? I dunno. I just didn’t really find myself excited to listen to it over and over in preparation for the review.
I liked:
Higher Ground. Probably the only song I was even vaguely familiar with from this album, in the sense that I had heard it (or a cover of it) before. I had no idea it was Stevie Wonder though. That said, it’s catchy and became my favourite track.
The vocals: Oh, Stevie… if I could sing even a quarter as well as you can, I’d be… well, I’d be a really really good singer.
Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing is a fun, upbeat track that cheered me up any time it came on – if only briefly. Maybe that’s just because it followed up All in Love is Fair
I didn’t like:
All in Love is Fair. This song is slow, lugubrious, and frankly hits way too close to home for me. I think I rage-quitted this track several times over.
Soul / funk. I know this is a totally personal and subjective thing, but this genre does absolutely nothing for me.
Final thoughts
Stevie Wonder’s Innervision is a fantastic album. I think everyone should listen to it at least once, if only to be exposed to some honest-to-God talent. I can’t praise this album enough for how good it sounds. But, if you’re like me and not into soul, or funk, it may not make it to your permanent playlist.
Overall opinion: 3
Would I recommend?: 5
Influenced my tastes: 1
Worth the hype? 4
 
 
Greg-JorgensenGreg Jorgensen’s Review

This was a really interesting choice for me, as beyond an occasional background listen to Superstition and a passing reference to Talking Books in Eddie Murphy’s famous standup special Delirious, I knew almost nothing about Stevie Wonder. I was a bit surprised then that I really, really disliked this album on the first listen. Spoiler alert – I still don’t like it, but I’m really conflicted – after subsequent listens I can’t help but admire the album’s achievement and place in music history. 

Yes, I know that Stevie is a genius and has had a wonderful, varied, influential, and important career, but this type of music is just not my bag. They lyrics are important and speak to a volatile time in American culture, and when you realize that every note and chord and arrangement was done by Wonder himself you can’t help but be impressed – especially when you consider the dozens of producers on modern music that has a bit less staying power than anything Wonder did. The dude is a force of musical nature. But those cheesy vibrato guitars and wa-wa-wa disco organs and clavinets…I just cringe.

The album’s first two songs – Too High and Visions – are awful, lightweight, goofy, syrupy nonsense. Jesus Children of America, He’s Mistra Know-It-All…boo. But what I liked, I really liked. Despite having many of the same instruments as the other songs I didn’t like, Living for the City and Higher Ground are rolling, toe-tapping favorites. I’m not versed enough in music to understand why – the arrangement? Production? – but they stuck. The more I listened, the more I liked. Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing started off with a great Latin rhythm and I was excited…but it never really kept it going to the same tempo.

I know bad mouthing an album considered one of the best of music’s best might cause some to shake their heads, but maybe it’s just rooted too deeply in an age where the dominant sound is one that grates on my nerves. I felt a bit like a bad music fan, but aside from a few standouts, this one didn’t do it for me.

Overall opinion: 2
Would we recommend?: 3
Influenced our tastes: 0
Worth the hype? 3

Scott GregoryScott Gregory’s Review

So, I feel like I can pretty much steal my review from Dre’s The Chronic and reuse it for Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions. You can feel the aftershocks of this album today from funkified new tracks to remixes and covers of the songs. What’s even more impressive is, checking the liner, you can see he plays the vast majority of the instruments himself as well as the vocals. Probably old news to a lot of people, but I’m enjoying an awakening to just how awesome Stevie really is.
As awesome as the Chili Peppers cover was, Higher Ground in its original form is still the champion. As I’ve grown older I’ve developed a deep appreciation for 70s funk, and this track is as funky as it gets, laying a progressive grove overtop. I have to say it’s my favourite track on the album.
I had a quick chat with some of the other guys, and there’s a “diverse” opinion on Living for the City and I’m on the “love it” side of the fence. I love it for the music, for the lyrics, for the raw social commentary. He also took it to Nixon on He’s Misstra Know-It-All, but Living has a raw, personal experience clearly attached. I dig it, man.
Visions is nice and moody, and I can really feel him coming through on this track as well. I could listen to it all day. It’s the piano that really sells me on it. Understated and supportive. I’m used to Stevie really banging away at the ivory, but this shows his ability to reach an audience without having to “go big”.
While Stevie didn’t influence my  musical tastes in my youth, I can tell you I’m all over him and his contemporaries from Motown now. If you like 70s funk, great composition, or just a piece of history for you to admire, I highly recommend listening to this album. Once you have, you’ll see his fingerprints over everything else you listen to.
The numbers:
Overall opinion: 4
Would I recommend?: 5
Influenced my tastes: 3
Worth the hype? 4

Review of The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

The Sonic Collective - Seargent Pepper

Please read our selection article of The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band before reading our reviews below.
Summary: 
This summary does not reflect Greg’s comments as his review is pending. His review will be added upon receiving it.
The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is one of the most revered albums of all time no matter what any of us say in these reviews. More so than any review to date I would encourage the reader to give this album a listen.
I don’t want to spoil our reviews and information too much so just go read what we had to say. We wee a little torn again though Scott Coates and I (Darren) seem to be staying on par as we both disliked last month’s review but both loved this. Scott Gregory and Alain had mixed emotions.
It’s important to say though that we all really liked this album and loved the hits that came from it like A Little Help From My Friends and Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. This was a defining moment in the Beatles career. Find out why
What was cool about this album:

  • It was really the first concept album(Paul’s idea) and started progressive rock.
  • It pushed boundaries and introduced new instruments and sounds to the fans.
  • Well produced.
  • The story behind it all.
  • It was the first rock album to ever win a Grammy for album of the year.
  • And on… and on… and on… just read below.

What we didn’t find so cool :

  • Alain and Scott weren’t fans of some songs and Within You Without You seemed to be the one most disliked. Maybe they should listen when they are high? Lol.
  • Scott Gregory thinks that the movie soundtrack performed by other artists is actually better.
  • There were some feelings that the changes in style were too drastic throughout the album.

We have also implemented a rating scale that you will see below in the reviews. All ratings are out of 5.
Our Reviews Average:
Overall opinion: 4
Would we recommend?: 4.5
Influenced our tastes: 4
Worth the hype? 4
Read our full individual reviews below. 
Don’t agree with us? Have a comment or suggestions? We’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment or contact us.

Our Full Reviews

Darren Scott
Darren Scott’s Review – This was Darren’s Pick
Ummm… wow, just wow. I really enjoyed what I picked this month. I guess I knew I would enjoy it at some level but I have to admit this pick actually surprised me.
I’m a big music fan. The problem with being a big music fan is that I always feel a weird psychological pressure that I should have listened to every great album ever or I will be struck down by the Gods. Especially when I talk to other music fans I feel I should have heard anything they have and be able to relate. I don’t think I’m pretentious about music in any way but many people I meet sure are. Right after I picked this album a few people mildly mocked that I was picking something that obviously everyone had heard before and that everyone loved. I instantly felt the pressure to agree as a music fan I would have had to heard, experienced and loved that Beatles album right?
Stop the insanity!!! I’m officially done feeling that pressure anymore because this album showed me exactly why this group was formed. We get to rediscover and experience albums like they were meant to be, with the exception of listening to them in this modern era.
I hope you other music fans can relate to how I am feeling. Here are a few points to remember as you travel on your musical musical journey as a music fan:

  • It’s all about the story. For me anyway, I am finding more and more that music can mostly be about the story of how it came into being. That creates an emotional affinity and attachment to an artist, album or song. Dave Grohl’s recent Sonic Highways documentary proves this point. It was 8 stories about the 8 songs on the latest Foo Fighters album. To be honest, I just think most of the songs fall into the “ok” or “good” category but the documentary series sucked me in to the story so I now have a higher emotional attachment to the songs and album over just hearing the songs on the radio. The same goes for this SPLHCB album. I really liked the album, but when I dug into the documentary and read numerous articles I fell in love with it. Discover the story behind your music heroes and songs!
  • It’s impossible to hear it all! Even if all you did for 16 hours a day was listen to music you would still not be able to hear all the great albums in all the genres so it’s fine to say you haven’t heard an album. It just can’t be done. I fully admit I had never listen to a full Beatles album until I recently bought Revolver on vinyl. I had just heard random songs but not in any context of album nor did I know the story behind any of them. It’s ok, I’ve listened now.
  • You like what you like. Nobody can tell you what to like musically, you will like music for your own reasons at the time. There will always be artists, albums or songs you don’t like. Accept that and don’t feel bad. It doesn’t necessarily mean you hate the artist or song or don’t think they are talented musicians. It just means that you don’t prefer to listen to them. Who cares? I still don’t like most songs by R.E.M., Radiohead and The Dave Matthews Band. I just don’t, and that’s ok.
  • Your tastes can and will change over time. Just to throw a wrench in the last point, I do want to encourage you to occasionally go back and listen to an artist or song that you may not have liked or understood years ago. As you explore music you start to get a better appreciation for music and you understand the story better. I will admit that personally I used to not really get Led Zepplin, The Cure to name a couple as well as pretty much all country music and jazz music. I now love both those bands, love jazz and there is some country music that I really like(though I am still working on this). Go back and listen to some of the classic bands you didn’t like long ago. You may be surprised.
  • Explore! I strongly encourage you to keep exploring music to find great new music to listen to and experience. I often just start reading about a band or artist I love and find out who influenced them. I then go listen to that artist and see what I think. It’s a great way to learn about who you love and find great new stuff. I also follow a few music industry professionals like Alan Cross and Eric Alper(Both Canadian by the way!) and they often recommend fantastic music. Another fun way is randomly listening to an album. With services like Rdio and Apple music, etc. it’s really easy and you never know what you will find. Happy hunting.
  • Don’t be an ass. Have fun. If you are a big music fan, have fun with it and don’t judge others. Who cares what others like or don’t like, this is your musical journey so enjoy it. If others ask you recommendations then be nice about it and try to give them advice on music that would be close to their style. Have a blast and crank it loud.

All right, I’ll get off my soap box now. Back to The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album.
For me, this made our Sonic Collective music group worth it. Would I have ever gone back and listened to and studied this album otherwise? Maybe, but I doubt it. That’s why this group is great. You spend 1 month experiencing albums like this. Awesome. Hey, we don’t always hit home runs as The Beta Band still burns me. But we do get to explore music and offer our thoughts.
The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was a defining album in so many ways. It was the comeback that the Beatles needed, it set the stage for the progressive rock genre and it set the stage for concept album. Think back to the 70s now and realize how many bands tried those concepts. There is also so much to the story of this album that it was so satisfying. If you haven’t watched the documentary posted in our pick blog then go do it now here. Find out why dogs hate this record. Find out what Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds is really about. Find out why Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane were omitted from the album but were supposed to be on it. Find out how the Beatles almost split up before this album.
Even if you don’t love this album I know you will respect what the Beatles were trying to do here. It’s a fun journey to go on as you listen and learn. Many criticize this as a drug-fueled psychedelic album but I think you will find that by today’s standards it’s not too out there at all. I would also argue that you could release this album today and it would chart immediately. The sound production was ahead of it’s time and stands up today. Just awesome, so awesome for me.
I could go on, but I won’t. Stop reading and start exploring this album for yourself.
Overall opinion: 5
Would I recommend?: 5
Influenced my tastes: 5
Worth the hype? 5
 
alain-dupuisAlain DuPuis’s Review 

I’ve been a Beatles fan for a long time. Whenever asked that old question “Beatles or the Rolling Stones”, my response is always “The Beatles, AFTER they discovered drugs”. In my opinion, The Beatles are never better than a few years into their musical careers when they get really into psychedelics and spirituality. Their music develops this intriguing complexity, occasionally featuring unorthodox instruments, unusual time signatures, and really really weird lyrical content. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band definitely fits into this category.
I liked:
The title track, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is awesome. Catchy, fun to sing along to, and the drums and guitars are awesome. It’s one of the strongest tracks on the album from a compositional standpoint, and certainly the most rock n’ roll.
Within You Without You is sonically complex, sprinkled with various Eastern percussion and string instruments. It’s slowly paced, and I’m sure others have criticized it for droning on, but I liked it.
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds is a classic Beatles track, and it’s tough for me to review it objectively because I grew up with it. Hard to argue that it’s a catchy, if nonsensical number. It’s worthwhile to note that Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds is absolutely NOT about LSD, despite what you may have heard.
A Day in the Life is just lovely. The song takes you on a bit of a ride and it progresses through different moods. I found it being a somewhat cathartic experience, which caught me quite unexpectedly.  Good job, Beatles!
 
I didn’t like:
For all its strengths, Sgt. Pepper’s is certainly not my favourite Beatles album. It seemed to me that a lot of the songs on the album were lame filler tracks, or just a bit too weird for me. I absolutely didn’t dig Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite. Every time I listened to it, I found myself thinking “this is junk, and I really want to skip it”.
I wasn’t a fan of When I’m Sixty-Four, either.  It’s extremely difficult for me to take the song seriously with that goddamn carnival music playing behind some otherwise quaintly clever lyrics.
Several other tracks were so boring and unforgettable to me that I didn’t even commit to remembering what they were called.
 
Final thoughts
I’ve never bothered to read any reviews or commentary on the album, but I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that this may be a polarizing album. Beatles fans who grew up thinking The Beatles were a clean-cut proto-pop boy band singing cute little radio-friendly love songs probably won’t appreciate this album as much as someone who enjoys a little psychedelia in their music. There’s certainly some weird shit sprinkled throughout this album, but that’s why the good Lord gave us a “skip” button, right?
Still totally worth a listen, if only to say you have.
Overall opinion: 3
Would I recommend?: 4
Influenced my tastes: 3.5
Worth the hype? 4.5
 
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Scott Coates’s Review
What a challenge – reviewing a Beatles album. Maintaining perspective while evaluating one of the world’s most accomplished, revered, and well known bands is daunting, but also came as a pleasant surprise. Yes, I know The Beatles’ hits, have listened to some of their albums, but must admit I’d never consumed Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (SPLHCB) in full, prior to it being picked for The Sonic Collective.
Headphones strapped on, I pressed play and was transported on a wonderful musical voyage. From first to final track the album’s songs are each unique, exceptionally rich, somehow blend together well despite being so different from one another, and left me a bit bedazzled each and every listen. The singles we all know well are there, but woven in between are others that bring it all together in an amazing package.
Enjoying SPLHCB with quality headphones made a huge difference, bringing so many subtle sounds, strings, and strokes to the forefront that were absent via my stereo. Subsequent listens were all on headphones, enabling me to immerse myself in to the world that is Sgt. Pepper. This being The Beatles eighth studio album, it came as no surprise when I later read this was one of the first concept albums, and it was never intended to be performed live, included an orchestra, and freed The Beatles of typical writing constraints.
Paul McCartney’s vocals on opening track SPLHCB blew me away, being as raw n’ rock as anything I’ve ever heard. The foursome’s ability to deliver a stunning array of sounds and styles is something few others have ever managed to pull off with such flair and success. It also didn’t come as a surprise to read that SPLHCB was the first rock album to win the Grammy Award for Album of the Year, changing the face of what was acceptable music for the masses.
After many passes through SPLHCB I get excited when track #12, SPLHCB (Reprise)’s opening drum riff comes in, creating a full-circle experience of sorts. And then there’s one track left, A Day in the Life, and its chilling final piano chord that serves as a grand finale of the musical experience and journey. I’m a bigger fan now then ever of The Beatles, will explore all their albums in full, and can see why Rolling Stone ranked SPLHCB #1 on their ‘500 Greatest Albums of All Time’ – deservedly so.
Overall opinion: 5
Would I recommend?: 5
Influenced my tastes: 5
Worth the hype?: 5
 
 
Scott GregoryScott Gregory’s Review

Ok. This is a tough one. I love some songs from the Beatles, but on the whole I can’t get into their catalogue. I feel the same way about this album. Why this bothers me is a mystery, since that’s how I feel about most bands. But I mean, come on, it’s the Beatles right? I’m supposed to love them unconditionally and worship their genius, right?

I just can’t understand how one of my favourite songs of all time, A Little Help From My Friends, can coexist on an album with a song like Within You Without You, which has a suckitude factor off the charts. Maybe I’ve just never developed the appropriate appreciation for the inclusion of the sitar in rock music. I think Our Lady Peace snuck some in on a couple of their tracks and it didn’t bother me. Must be the moustaches I can hear these Liverpool boys wearing coming through the mics.

If I was to recommend a couple tracks as must-listen, you’d have to include the big players:

A Little Help From My Friends

What would you if I reviewed this tune, would you stand up and walk out on me? Yes, it’s the obvious choice on the album, but it’s one of the few that actually songs like “the Beatles” as far as I’m concerned. I could just wrap up in this song like a warm blanket and pretend the rest of the album didn’t exist. The Harmonies are crisp, it has a nice rolling baseline, and it’s just a nice message. “But Scott,” you say “I need at least a couple more musical train wrecks in my life!”  Well then, let’s listen to another song…

Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds

Don’t do drugs kids. If you ever needed a reason to kick the habit, listen to Hey Jude then this song. I guess while getting high might make average bands more creative, it takes a great band makes them… this. Still, it’s one of the quintessential Beatles songs, and if anyone ever asked if you’d heard it or not, you better be able to say yes.

When I’m Sixty-Four

This song has a throw-back feel even for the Beatles. I could see people dancing to this in the 30s, having a great time forgetting about the Great Depression, which I’m sure was only marginally easier to live through than this album. If you like a whimsical, flighty song that can sneak into your playlist and put a smile on your face, this is the one.

I think my biggest problem with this album is that someone did it better later on, and that’s never supposed to happen.

You know when a lot of artists get together to do a tribute album? Let’s take Instant Karma to keep it in the Beatles family. Sure, Green Day does an amazing job on Working Class Hero, but the rest of the covers are just average. Sorry Fergie.

I know at least Darren doesn’t agree, but Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees just destroy the Beatles on their own songs. There, I said it. The Gibb brothers are kings of harmony, and a young Peter Frampton sings the hell out of everything. Getting Better is getting better because these guys are singing it instead. And while I know it wasn’t actually included on the original album, I have to include Sandy Farina’s cover of Strawberry Fields Forever on the movie’s soundtrack as one of the transformative songs of my youth that still holds me spellbound to this day.

So honestly, if you had to pick between the original album and the movie soundtrack, I’d go with the soundtrack. You’ll not only get better versions of the original songs, but there are plenty of covers of other Beatles songs by artists such as Aerosmith, Steve Martin (yes, that Steve Martin), Earth Wind and Fire, and even some Alice Cooper. It’s a great double album you can tell your kids about. Seriously, they’ll never find it otherwise. Tell your kids.

On to the numbers!

Overall opinion: 3
Would I recommend: 3
Influenced my tastes: 2
Worth the hype? 1

(Add two points to each of those scores and you have my ratings for the movie soundtrack.)

Greg-JorgensenGreg Jorgensen’s Review

When I was a punk-ass kid, it was ‘cool’ to criticize old people and the things they like. After all, I was part of the new generation. The world would be moulded in our image! This, of course, carried over to music, and I was fond of making fun of The Beatles, which my mom loved. She used to tell me, “You wouldn’t have Bon Jovi without The Beatles!” This was true of course, but it still didn’t make me appreciate them enough to be any more than a casual fan as I grew up.

However, when I turned on SPLHCB – an album I can’t remember ever consciously hearing – I knew almost all of the songs by heart. That is, the ones that weren’t bat-shit crazy recollections of drug fuelled nightmares. Like most Beatles albums, SPLHCB is a hit-and-miss affair for me, but the hits are GIANT MOTHERFUCKING HITS.

The songs that I did like are part of the fabric of musical history, songs that didn’t just help define a band, but an entire generation, and indeed, a whole genre of music. Creative composition, melodic arrangements, and imaginative lyrics all resonated powerfully with me – both when I was a punk-ass kid subconsciously taking it in, or as an adult listening with fresh ears. 

Getting Better is a sweet little song that always gives my brain a reason to grin a bit. Whenever I hear When I’m Sixty Four I can’t help but imagine it as the opening theme of a 1950’s era black-and-white sitcom, and it’s got such a pleasingly goofy, hummable chorus that it’s impossible to not like. With a Little Help From my Friends is gorgeous, and Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds is an unforgettable song, despite the lyrics that only make sense if you’re HAF. A Day in the Life is a curious song – while listening I’m alternately loving it, hating it, and smiling at it, but that final piano note – fantastic.

Those songs aside, the others are just a jumbled mess for me, with the band clearly taking their desire for experimentation a bit too far. Songs like Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! and Within You Without You are just exercises in WTF all around, while others like Lovely Rita are nice, but too lightweight to matter much.

But overall the album is a great listening experience, the product of a band whose collected genius by this point was undeniable and inescapable.

Overall opinion: 4
Would we recommend?: 5
Influenced our tastes: 3
Worth the hype? 5

Review of Skunk Anansie: Paranoid and Sunburnt

Skunk Anansie - The Sonic Collective

Please read our selection article of Skunk Anansie: Paranoid and Sunburnt before reading our reviews below.
Summary: 
This month’s pick of Skunk Anansie by Greg Jorgensen is definitely the first time I(Darren) have seen the group so divided. While Greg, Alain and Scott Gregory liked this album and found lots of great things to say about the music, lyrics and the lead singer Skin’s aggressive vocals, Scott Coates and I totally thought this album, to be blunt, sucked. As I(Darren) author these summaries I’ll try not to be biased but it might be hard as I just don’t see what the other 3 thought was so great.
The sound or Paranoid and Sunburnt was very edgy for when it was recorded in 1994 and as music was going through a huge transition at this time this aggressive and hard rocking scratchy sound was welcomed. It seems like North America missed Skunk Anansie when they first entered the scene as non of us, including Greg knew anything about them until years later.
If you like the sound of Alanis Morissette I could see that you would also like this band too. I personally thought Alanis and others did it much better in the era but to each your own. It might be interesting to note that Scott Coates and myself are the oldest on this panel so that might have been the difference in our opinions(grumpy old men, lol) but I’m not sure. All the reviews are worth a read just to see what differences we had.
What was cool about Skunk Anansie: Paranoid and Sunburnt:

  • There was much praise of the lead signer Skin’s voice and her charged lyrics with social and feminist themes
  • Some of us enjoyed discovering this band that was literally unheard of by the other 4 in the Sonic Collective

What we didn’t find so cool :

  • Even those who liked the album agreed that not all the songs were strong
  • Darren and Scott Coates hated this album. It seemed too over-the-top
  • I felt that others in this era like Alanis and Living Color were more genuine and had much better songs.
  • Some of felt that musically they were not very progressive and it sounded derivative of 80s hair metal.

We have also implemented a rating scale that you will see below in the reviews. All ratings are out of 5.
Our Reviews Average:
Overall opinion: 3
Would we recommend?: 2.5
Influenced our tastes: 2
Worth the hype? 2.5
Read our full individual reviews below. 
Don’t agree with us? Have a comment or suggestions? We’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment or contact us.

Our Full Reviews

Greg-JorgensenGreg Jorgensen’s Review – This was Greg’s Pick

It was great to be able to listen to Paranoid and Sunburnt again with a few decades’ worth of musical exposure and experience to fall back on. Like i said in my selection post, this one never really grabbed me solidly enough to warrant deeper exploration and I forgot about it. But I’m really glad I was able to dive back in, as I (mostly) enjoyed it much more than I remember as a young punk kid.

The first song on the album, “Selling Jesus”, is one I remember most, as it was featured in a trailer for the really underrated movie Strange Days, which I analyzed frame-by-frame for a final project in film school (the trailer, not the movie). Clearly an anti-religion rant, the song hasn’t lost any of its potency in the ensuing years, and I was hooked as soon as it kicked off. Like the rest of the album, it’s loaded with political, religious, racial, and sexual innuendo and commentary. Lyrics like these were pretty popular with some of the more famous bands in the 90s, but are sadly lacking with popular contemporary artists.

Another standout was “Intellectualize My Blackness”, a song that I remember dismissing back in ’95 because it came off as pandering political speech, but which I really dug this time around, especially the funky, fuzzy guitar/bass that’s impossible not to tap your feet to. “I Can Dream”, “Weak”, and ‘Rise Up” were all standouts for me, but I didn’t find the same intensity or power to the others on the album. Interesting and lyrically potent, yes, and I’d happily listen to them anytime, but one can see the seeds of Skunks future “poppy” albums in some, such as “Charity” and “100 Ways to be a Good Girl”, which were the weak links.

One of the things that I think really draws me to this album is Skin’s tremendous voice, which she wields impressive control over. I read somewhere she has the same range as Mariah Carrey, although thankfully she uses it with a bit more intensity. Doing some research for this review, I also turned up a story that said Skin once duetted with Pavarotti in a concert for the Dalai Lama, which is…weird, but cool. So I’m clearly not alone in thinking she’s the distinctive, powerful heart of the band.

As I said in the intro, I’m really glad I was able to listen to some of Skin’s earlier stuff. Despite only really loving about half of the songs and finding the rest good but not awesome, I found Paranoid and Sunburnt to be an energetic, relentless tour de force that I listened to about a dozen times. Indeed, it’s a bit of shame that their more recent releases have gone in a different, more pop-centric direction. Skunk really had something here, and I would have loved it if they continued along the same lines with the same intensity. But for now, I’ll keep this one on heavy rotation, and go back to listen to Skunk’s earlier albums with a more open mind, er, ear.

Overall opinion: 4.5
Would we recommend?: 4
Influenced my tastes: 4
Worth the hype? 4.5

alain-dupuisAlain DuPuis’s Review

My first thought as I hit play on track one was “Where the fuck was this album when I was an angsty teenager”? It’s got all the elements I was into back then. Heavy, grinding guitars, just the right amount of feedback, rhythmic bass, pseudo-aggressive lyrical content – It would have been right at home between my Nirvana, Bush, and Our Lady Peace albums. Unfortunately for me, I was unaware of this band’s existence until Greg’s pick, and I’m no longer an angsty teenager. That last fact actually doesn’t matter much, because I really like this album.
Paranoid and Sunburnt definitely has that mid-90’s alternative rock sound that some music journalists might lump into the “post-grunge” category. (A term that all too often carries the negative connotation of sounding derivative and devoid of creativity.) For my money, the album is a little too weird sounding for me to really consider derivative, though there are many sonic quirks that give away the 1995 release date. Is that a bad thing? I don’t think so.
My favourite track on the album is Selling Jesus. Lyrical content aside, it’s a fun song to rock out to. Not a bad choice for their first single. I’m sure the devoutly religious among us might find the lyrics questionable, but Skunk Anansie is all about controversial protest songs. They aren’t afraid “go there” when it comes to race, religion, and a variety of other social topics.
Charity is another favourite for me. The slow/fast/soft/loud dynamics that we saw in the Pixies was blatantly present on this track, which got me wondering if Skunk Anansie was yet another band on the list of those who were influenced by The Pixies. Lead singer Skin’s vocal talents were all over this track. She killed it.
My least favourite track was Little Baby Swastikkka. (It should be stated that I don’t actually dislike the song. It just happened to be my least favourite on the album.) Perhaps I found it just a bit too repetitive for me. Perhaps it was because I find the lyrical content a bit… odd? Maybe I just missed the point they were trying to make entirely.
I really enjoyed this pick. I like when bands aren’t afraid to tackle topics that are controversial. There was a great mix of aggression, depth, and finesse that would have appealed as much to my teenage self as it appeals to me, though likely for different reasons. I’m pretty confident in saying that at least a few of the tracks on Paranoid and Sunburnt are going to be on permanent rotation in my 90’s playlist, and I’m definitely keen to explore the rest of the band’s discography.
Overall opinion: 4.5
Would I recommend?: 5
Influenced my tastes: –
Worth the hype? 4
 
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Scott Coates’s Review
It was bound to happen. We’d hit a selection that absolutely didn’t click with someone in the group and I’ve arrived at that point with this selection: Skunk Anansie – Paranoid and Sunburnt. I enjoy a wide range of musical styles: rock, heavy stuff, rap, jazz, ska, and bands that can incorporate a few of these into their sound, but this band and album simply stink. I just can’t find redeeming qualities in this work. I was surprised I hadn’t heard of Skunk Anansie when they were put forth and am thankful my life prior to this wasn’t exposed to them.
Each time I thought about listening to the album I found myself not wanting to, and getting a third listen in today will mark the final time before I delete it from my iCloud to ensure it doesn’t further pollute my musical collection.
The initial licks on opening track Selling Jesus almost sound like a 311 tune, then the vocals kick in and its all downhill for the remainder of the album. Simply put, the singer’s vocals are shrill, she’s trying way too hard, and they absolutely grate on me in every way, shape and form. Then there are the lyrics: again, she’s trying way to hard to make a profound statement, change the world, and the result is contrived, dull and juvenile.
The band itself is a reasonably tight unit, their sound is tolerable, but combined with the singer, this is a musical A-Bomb. Boom – it’s off my computer!
Overall opinion: 1
Would I recommend?: 0
Influenced my tastes: 0
Worth the hype? 0
 
Darren Scott
Darren Scott’s Review
Skunk Anansie, oh Skunk Anansie. Who art thou Skunk Anansie?
After listening to Skunk Anansie this past month, I don’t know if I got the answer from their Paranoid and Sunburnt album. I had never heard of this band until Greg picked them for June and I am always excited to get to know new bands. After reading about them I dove right in to the album.
First listens can be wildly deceiving for me as I have often been cool on an album at first but then after a few more listens grown to love them. After the first listen of this album I was definitely cool to their sound. It sounded very dated to me and I struggled to connect with any particular songs though some were better than others.
I then tried several more listens and even went as far to take Greg’s advice and listen to it really loud. I drove around in my car and cranked it to an 11 and really tried to get into the album. I think that if I had heard this album in 1994 I may have liked it better but it just didn’t stand the test of time for me and I still didn’t connect to any songs.
I respect that they sounded ok though I wasn’t a big fan of the drum track and thought it sounded like a metal hair band drummer from the 80s. The main problem for me was that their sound reminded my of bands like Living Color and Alanis Morrisette who I felt were much better in this niche of music and they had songs that I loved then and still do today. I appreciated Skin’s voice and the story of the lyrics was sometimes good but I just never connected and found this cheesy. More than once I found myself thinking of them like I do many pop and pop rock bands that just try to make hits with not much musical ability.

This was the first time ever I didn’t continue to listen to the album for the entire month. Each time I tried to listen I just couldn’t do it. About a week ago I was deleting songs and though I felt a bit bad Skunk Anansie ended up deleted.
Just before writing this I did go listen to some of their newer songs and I did like Charlie Big Potato and some other songs. I don’t think I would buy them and I appreciate that many people loved this kind of music but this was not for me at all. Sorry Greg.
Overall opinion: 1.5
Would I recommend?: 0
Influenced our tastes: 0
Worth the hype: 1
 
Scott GregoryScott Gregory’s Review

So I’d never heard of this group until now, despite having watched Strange Days a couple dozen times. I think back to 1995 and what I was listening to and I could see this fitting right in. I’d probably be jumping around singing, “Ya! Screw those White Anglo Saxon Protestants! Oh, wait a minute…”
Yes, my father was born in England, and I’m as white and Anglican as can be. Fortunately, my family is working class and Dr. Dre had already informed me last month how horrible a plague I am on society. Let me tell you, it was refreshing to be crucified in rhyme for my class privilege instead of racial. Diversity truly is the spice of life.
On to the actual music
Overall I really enjoyed the feel to this album. They contributed to Strange Days, but I think they would have been equally comfortable appearing on The Crow soundtrack as well. Henry Rollins, RATM, The Jesus and Mary Chain, all great choices to toss on a mixed tape with Skunk. (Was I still making mixed tapes in 95? Of course, I’m Star Lord.)
My top three picks for singles:
Selling Jesus is a great lead-off track. I mean really, can you ever have enough Jesus? I have to tell you, in case you’re an atheist listening to this song, I don’t think we Anglicans have smelly fingers post-coitus. Well, no more smelly than anyone else’s that is. Anyway, the production on this track is pretty raw, which I actually like on tracks from these kinds of bands. I want rawness oozing out of the amps. Skin’s vocals really carry the energy through, and I can only imagine jumping into the pit with this one.
Little Baby Swastika had some really great bass lines. I’ve always been a sucker for a good bridge loaded with thrumming bass, and this song delivers. I’m really a little lost on the lyrics. I feel a little too removed from 95 and the UK to really get a sense of what the racial situation would have been there. I know race is still an issue everywhere, but this feels like a response to something specific and I’m really curious to go dig around a bit.
And Here I stand is big, beautiful and loud. This is a great live track with thumping percussion and big riffs coming off the guitars. This song would mix in right between Maggie’s Farm by RATM and Liar by Rollins (hey, you gotta come down sometime.) Aaand, that’s when I’d have to break for water. Man, I don’t know if I’m in good enough shape to own this tape I’m building!
By the numbers
Overall opinion: 3.5
Would I recommend?: 20yr old me: 4. Me now: 3
Influenced our tastes: 4 (back then, this would have slide into my collection smoothly)
Worth the hype: 3
Final thought
Go have a look at James Marsters (Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer), now go look at Mark on the band’s page and tell me he doesn’t look like James’ older, buffer brother that used to beat him up when he tried to hang out with the band. Who’s laughing now James? Good luck trying to meet Sarah Michelle Geller now. Should have been nicer to your little bro, bro.

Review of Dr. Dre: The Chronic

Please read our selection article of Dr. Dre The Chronic before reading our reviews below.
Summary: 
This month’s pick by Alain DuPuis definitely got us fired up one way or another. Our reviews varied but we all had strong opinions about the album so that always make for great reviews. Instead of summarizing like I(Darren) usually do, I think you should just take 10 minutes and read our 5 reviews and watch the embedded videos.
 
I do want to warn you that this month’s pick definitely contains lyrics that will offend people.
 
What was cool about Dr. Dre: The Chronic:

  • The album as a whole is an entertaining listen and defined the G-Funk style that influenced so many rappers to come.
  • The introduction of Snoop Dogg and the use of other great rappers like Nate Dogg, Warren G, The Lady of Rage and RBX.
  • The social commentary, though hard to take at times, told a story of poverty, racism and injustice that needed to be told at this point in history.

 
What we didn’t find so cool(Please take note that even though some of us are rap fans this is 5 white late 20s to mid-40s Canadian guys writing this so we were not exactly the target audience) :

  • Though the lyrics were telling a social story at times they were also outrageous, silly, misogynistic, homophobic and way too full fat dicks, balls, n-words, etc.
  • The skits had a few giggles but it was felt they were mostly distracting and stupid and broke the flow of the album.

 
We have also implemented a rating scale that you will see below in the reviews. All ratings are out of 5.
Our Reviews Average:
Overall opinion: 4
Would we recommend?: 4
Influenced our tastes: 3.5
Worth the hype? 4.5
 
Read our full individual reviews below. 
Don’t agree with us? Have a comment or suggestions? We’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment or contact us.
 

Our Full Reviews

 
alain-dupuisAlain DuPuis’s Review – This was Alain’s Pick

I really didn’t care much for rap until I watched the movie 8-Mile. It gave me a whole new perspective on the art of rapping, and I became an instant convert. That was back in 2002. Since then, I’ve had to play a whole lot of catch-up, becoming acquainted with the bodies of work from rap artists that I so ignorantly chose to disregard. Some albums are good. Some are terrible. And some, such as The Chronic, are incredible.
 
As I’m sure I’ve made obvious, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. The Chronic is like a time machine that takes you back to California in the early 90s. By listening to it, you get a pretty good sense of what the hip-hop scene looked like as it became more and more of a mainstream force. Perhaps even more importantly, you get a sense of what the political landscape looked like. The Chronic is full of social commentary that highlights the struggle urban youths faced in dealing with racism, police brutality, and gang culture.
 
My favourite track is by far The Day the Niggaz Took Over. It’s an emotive snapshot into the lives and perspectives of people in Los Angeles during the infamous L.A. Riots. Quick history lesson here: On April 29th, 1992, Four LAPD members were acquitted of using excess force on a black man named Rodney King, despite graphic video evidence detailing their savage beating of the unarmed man. The verdict sparked an intense, racially charged six day riot in which 53 people lost their lives, thousands were injured, and over a billion dollars worth of property was destroyed. The Day the Niggaz Took Over is an intense song. The lyrics are political, violent, and full of legitimate emotion. The song even uses real audio samples from people inside the civil unrest, chronicling their feelings and perspectives of the events as they were unfolding around them. It’s perhaps a sobering thing to consider that despite being over 23 years old, this song is still just as applicable today. Police brutality and corruption against minorities is still a major problem, and one that has become increasingly scrutinized by the mainstream media once again.
 
There were a lot of other good tracks on The Chronic as well. I really enjoyed Lyrical Gangbang, largely because of The Lady of Rage’s delivery. (I wish she enjoyed more success in her career, because she’s majorly talented.) Snoop Dogg never sounded any smoother than when he drops his verse in Bitches ain’t Shit. Stranded on Death Row is just a sick track. Everything from the production to the delivery was masterful.
 
For all its strengths, The Chronic isn’t a perfect album. Some tracks just don’t really do it for me. Let Me Ride is incredibly repetitive. It got to the point where I wanted to skip the song about halfway through every time it came on. And then there are the filler tracks. I don’t know why rap artists insist on putting skits in their albums. Some of them are funny. Some of them are witty. But most of them are annoying and unnecessary. $20 Sack Pyramid? Why? The Doctor’s Office? Shut up.
 
If you haven’t heard this album in full, I suggest you give it a shot. (Despite being difficult to purchase online because of numerous copyright issues, I got your streaming hookup here:

 
My personal opinion: 5
Would I recommend?: 5
Influenced my tastes: 5
Worth the hype? 5
 
smcoates-About-Picture-200x300
Scott Coates’s Review
I thought there were only so many ways to tell niggas and bitches “waass up”, but it turns out there are many, many more. I was aware of NWA, some of their hits are on my playlists, I’d listened to The Chronic 2001, Dr. Dre’s second album, but had never gone full gangsta and put such a work on regular, heavy rotation, until diving in to The Chronic this month. I thought I knew what Dre’s debut was all about, but many listens drew me in to a world very different from my own.
 
There’s no doubt the sounds and beats contained on The Chronic were ground-breaking and laid the foundation for many rappers that followed. The lazy deep-funk beat on Fuck Wit Dre Day is so familiar, even to a suburban cracker from Canada, I had to remind myself this was the first time this sound emanated, only to be copied and re-worked for decades to come. It literally put Snoop Dogg on the map (boy can he spell his name well). There are a host of catchy tracks on the album, notably Let Me Ride, Lyrical Gangbang (must be Led Zeppelin’s When the Levee Breaks drum beat in there), and Stranded on Death Row, which got me swaggering and dreaming of puffing on blunts with my homies.
 
Then there’s The Day the Niggaz Took Over, which must be about the 1992 Rodney King riots, and I instantly remembered seeing the TV footage of this epic event when it went down and having no idea what kind of world it was coming from. The Chronic tells the tale of those people, the world they live in, and captures the place and time succinctly. It’s not mine, and tough to relate to at times, but seems accurate and telling.
 
While I won’t likely regularly listen to The Chronic or go to it for moral inspiration, I appreciate that much of the cleaner rap I listened to growing up, and any of it I enjoy once in a while today, owes a debt to Dre’s debut. But I can only handle hearing about so many ‘nuts on tonsils’, ‘fat dicks’, ‘muthafuckas’, and ‘fuckin’ hoes’, without feeling a few IQ points short and slightly misogynistic.
 
Overall opinion: 3
Would I recommend?: 4
Influenced my tastes: 4
Worth the hype? 4
 
Darren Scott
Darren Scott’s Review
How did I miss getting in to this album? I’m a weirdo that likes all kinds of music but I have always been a huge fan of rap and I am proud to say that I was a huge fan of pioneers like Grand Master Flash and went on to listen to all kinds of rap in the 80s and 90s and beyond. I saw 2 Live Crew in Edmonton in 1990 and I loved NWA but yet I somehow didn’t listen to Dr. Dre’s The Chronic when it came out. I know some of the songs and liked them but I think I was so preoccupied with the new grunge sound during those years that I obviously missed out on some great rap. This is my favourite album I have rediscovered in this group yet.
 
I will say that as I am now a 45 year old that is a little more mature (in some ways), I was worried that I’d find the lyrics too misogynistic, too homophobic, too much n-word and just silly. Though it is hard-core you have to realise that songs are usually a historical journal of a period of time or they are about hope of a change in a situation. This album is definitely a recording of a crazy period in time where Los Angeles was trying to heal from the Rodney King riots and poverty and racism were high. These guys were also still young and trying to make a statement. Though the lyrics can be hard to take for some, they ultimately reflect what it was like in LA in the early 90s so even though I can’t relate and find them a little too over the top and misogynistic I just let myself enjoy the album.
 
The other crazy part of this album was how it was used to verbally attack former NWA manager Jerry Heller and Easy E who had an ongoing feud with Dr. Dre after a very troubled break up of NWA. From beginning to end Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg tear apart and ridicule their rivals and enemy. Can you imagine somebody hating you so much that you record an album that will be sold internationally that dedicates a good amount of time to this bashing? Wow. Just wow.
 
As the album is named The Chronic and the cover is a tribute to Zig Zag rolling papers, it would make sense that this is best listened to under the influence of the chronic. I can only hypothesize that would be awesome.
 
I find that the album plays great from beginning to end though I did find The Doctor’s Office skit stupid and it broke up the album a bit weird for me. I also really liked how the album used Dr. Dre’s friends in a really smart way and he didn’t seem to mind sharing the spotlight with soon-to-be-famous rappers like Nate Dogg, Warren G and Snoop Dogg. Do you think Kanye West would ever let other rappers be featured so strongly on his album? I don’t think so. Very smart of Dre.
 
This is truly worthy of it’s position as one of the best and most influential rap albums ever and I will definitely keep it as part of a regular rotation, though I will be sure to have my headphones on as this album could offend many others. If you are a fan of rap and hip hop and have not listened to this album watch this:
 

 
Overall opinion: 4
Would I recommend?: 4
Influenced my tastes: 4
Worth the hype? 4.5
 
 
Greg-JorgensenGreg Jorgensen’s Review

Right off the bat, let me say that I’m far too white and nerdy to know much about hip hop. I understand what it is, where it came from, and why it resonates, but it never really appealed to me, and I never felt any urge to listen to it. In that respect, it’s kind of like Shakespeare – I understand that without it, we wouldn’t be where we are today…but you’d never find me sitting by the fire reading Othello.

The Chronic hit me the same way. It’s undoubtedly a classic, and I know I’m in the minority, but I feel indifferent. After my first listen, I couldn’t help but think that the whole was greater than the parts…the people involved and the velocity it had upon release was as much a part of its success than the actual songs. 

Speaking of the songs, the energy and emotion that went into making them is clear, but they were all undone by some really ridiculous lyrics. I realize I”m looking at it from the back of a much different hip hop landscape – which, again, wouldn’t exist without The Chronic – but there was only so many times I could hear dudes boasting about bitches sucking fat dicks, how many gats they have, and how many other niggaz they’ve killed before it all just became a parody of itself. Especially knowing now that Snoop and Dre are multimillionaires living in Bel Air. 

That being said, it’s not like disliked anything in particular. A few stray thoughts:

  • This is an album I’d love to have on in the background at a party or working out at the gym. If I worked out at a gym.
  • I was hoping The Chronic would be more like Straight Outta Compton, which I only recently re-listened to all the way through. I found the NWA release to be more creative, experimental, and lyrically diverse. Yeah…they talked about bitches and fat dicks too, but it somehow came off as more political and weighty.
  • I found myself looking forward to the next appearance of Snoop as I listened. To my ears, Dre isn’t immediately recognizable, but Snoop is. After I was done I was inspired to go and listen to some of his older stuff.

In the end, I can only compare it to old-school Connery Bond movies. When I watch them now I recognize why they are important and appreciate their impact, but can’t help but laugh at how goofy they are.

Overall opinion: 3
Would we recommend?: 3,5
Influenced our tastes: 1
Worth the hype? 4

 
 
Scott GregoryScott Gregory’s Review

Bow wow wow yippy yo yippy yay
Death Row’s in the motherfuckin house
 

Awww yeah!  Welcome to the birth of West Coast G-funk mah nizzles! Fresh off his break with Ruthless records, Dr. Dre changed the game. This album also has a really great cover of Ben Fold’s single Bitches Ain’t Shit, which sounds completely different when you take it off the piano…

Aaah I’m just messin’ with ya! Ben won’t be on the scene for a long time, Death Row and Def Jam fill up this album with cameos: Snoop, RBX, Tha Dogg Pound, The Lady of Rage, and of course, Warren G and Nate Dogg. How could this thing not be awesome???

 

By the time you’re done the intro and Fuck Wit Dre Day you know everything you know about how Snoop and Dre think of Eazy-E:

·         He’s a penguin lookin’ mutherfucker

·         They heard his mama’s a ‘Frisco dyke

·         He can eat a big fat dick.

So yeah, Dre had a little chip on his shoulder, and if Eazy-E screwing him and the rest of Ruthless over for years was the catalyst for this album, we should all be pouring a 40 over his grave. Some think Eazy-E was the least talented rapper in the NWA, but his response, Real Compton City G, is by far my favourite track by him.

I’m going to skip the three singles: Nuthin’ but a “G” Thang, Fuck With Dre Day and Let Me Ride, other than to say that if you’ve only listened to the radio edits you have to pull up this album and listen to the uncensored versions. They’re all golden. Actually, they’re platinum. Multi-platinum. But here’s a couple tracks those monsters overshadowed:

Bitches Ain’t Shit

Like I mentioned above, this song has been covered a couple times over the years, with Ben Fold’s version getting a lot of play. The flow on the amazing track is amazing. I remember hearing Snoop on the chorus and thinking, “I really hope this guy makes a reggae album someday! Ya no. Honestly I had no idea who this guy was, but he laid down a mean chorus and rap. Top that off with strong performances by the Dogg Pound and Dre, and this track belongs on your “cruising the hood” mixed tape.

A Nigga Witta Gun

Confession: I was really into Public Enemy when this album came out, and this track gave me an outlet for my suburbia rage. The only thing that brought me back to rock music were consecutive crazy albums by Stone Temple Pilots, I Mother Earth and Our Lady Peace. Otherwise I’d probably be living in a trailer with Kid Rock as we speak.

Anyway, It’s still funky flow, but I get PE and Boogie Down Productions vibes whenever I listen to it. Let me know who it reminds you of.

The $20 Sack Pyramid

Ok, not a song (unless you get the theme song to the game show stuck in your head), but a hilarious skit. Nothing like trying to win a $35 gift certificate to the Compton Swap Meet. I didn’t recognize the hose, but apparently, her name is “Big Tittie Nickie”.  I’ve never heard of her, and I feel like I still haven’t.

I anticipated your first question, and no I can’t find a picture of her. All that comes up are pictures of Nicki Minaj, which ruins the “quality hip hop” theme we had going.

But, just so we go out on a high note, here are some ladies that prove you can dare to be beautiful and talented at the same time: 

So yeah, if you’re into listening to one of those albums that completely destroyed the scene and rebuilt the next decade in its own image, this might be for you. If you like historical accountings of who needed to eat a big fat dick in the early 90s, this also has you covered. This is some Snoop’s earliest work, so if you’re out to chart his evolution you have to start here as well.

By the numbers:
My personal opinion: 4.5
Would I recommend?: 4
Influenced my tastes? 3
Worth the hype? 4

Review of Cheap Trick: Heaven Tonight

Please read our selection of Cheap Trick Heaven Tonight before reading our reviews below.
Summary: 
This was an interesting pick by Scott Coates this month as many bands of this era tend to be overlooked as influencers. With the exception of Greg, the rest of us enjoyed this album. Cheap Trick was in the zone in the late 70s and the starting track Surrender is till beloved to this day.
We all seemed to be aligned that this new pop-rock wasn’t really pushing the boundaries of music but there is something to be said of a band that can come in and nail the music of the day. That is what Cheap Trick did in their time. They weren’t the biggest and best of the time from a sales or influencer level(Van Halen and AC/DC were mentioned a few times) but they are very deserving of their praises and this album is a nice addition to the late 70s rock sound.
Though this album isn’t for everybody(Greg, lol) it is just fun and easy to get in to. We definitely recommend a listen to this album as well as their Cheap Trick at Budokan.

What was cool about Cheap Trick: Heaven Tonight:

  • Some awesome fun rock songs. Surrender and Auf Wiedersehen are favorites.
  • The album stands the test of time and is a good start before listening to Cheap Trick at Budokan
  • Great musicians and Zander has a great voice.

What we didn’t find so cool :

  • The album’s songs seemed a little scattered and disconnected.
  • Some felt that other bands at the time did pop rock better.
  • Some of the songs guitar riffs were a bit too similar.

We have also implemented a rating scale that you will see below in the reviews. All ratings are out of 5.
Reviews Average:
Overall opinion: 3.5
Would we recommend?: 3.5
Influenced our tastes: 2.5
Worth the hype? 4
Read our full individual reviews below. 
Don’t agree with us? Have a comment or suggestions? We’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment or contact us.
 

Our Full Reviews

 
smcoates-About-Picture-200x300
Scott Coates’s Review
Knowing a band’s best album (Cheap Trick at Budokan), then going to another one (Heaven Tonight) to get a true sense for their worth is a bit of a backwards exercise. But The Sonic Collective doesn’t evaluate live albums, so when I wanted to gain an appreciation for Cheap Trick in their prime, Heaven Tonight, their third studio album, was where I put my finger for a pulse.
The album is an intricate work, with an almost too wide variety of styles at times, but perhaps it showcases the depth the band was at during the period. Opening track Surrender kicks things off with a definitive ‘bang’ that lets you know you’re in for a ride. The journey continues in some interesting and sometimes unexpected directions, with California Man seeming like something kids in the fifties could almost swing to in a soda shop, then go right back to solidly rocking with Auf Wiedersehen. The scope of rock/pop is pretty much covered here.
On the Radio is a fun jab at disc jockeys back in 1978 (when the album was released) and no doubt the politics of getting a single on the air, while title track Heaven Tonight’s background strings reminds me at times of Kashmir by Led Zeppelin. This track is the low point of the musical journey, but you’ve got to shoot for at least one ballad on an album.
Stiff Competition is a final reminder that Cheap Trick is best at rocking and they do it with the best of them. There’s little doubt this work, their third studio album, was the one that firmly cemented them as a rock band to be reckoned with, along with the likes of other heavyweights at the time such as Zeppelin and AC/DC, who were making a serious impact.
All in all Heaven Tonight is a solid musical glimpse into the time period, when rock was intersecting with the hot new thing, disco, and bands were battling to find a way into listeners’ hearts and carve their way to the top of the charts. For anyone wanting to get a sense of Cheap Trick at their prime, this is the place to start, then move on to their opus, Cheap Trick at Budokan.
Overall opinion: 4.5
Would I recommend?: 4
Influenced my tastes: 4
Worth the hype? 4
 
Darren Scott
Darren Scott’s Review
I do remember hearing lots of Cheap Trick in my youth but I really remember their Lap of Luxury album as that was released on the year of my high school graduation. I can still remember the slow dance at prom to The Flame. Sure that wasn’t their best album but it fit it nicely in the 80s and was great simple and fun rock.
Though I had heard some of the songs on Heaven Tonight, I had never really listened to one of the older albums in entirety. I only own Cheap Trick at Budokan so I was excited to get into this album and see where these guys came from.
As with any album review it is always good to put yourself in that era.
Rock music was evolving and moving away from complex groups and songs like Led Zeppelin was releasing. Rock was now starting to be more approachable and, I hate to say it, commercialized. If Led Zeppelin was a rock’n’roll 4 course dinner, then many of the new bands were just looking to be hot dog street vendors. By no means am I trying to offend any of these bands, Cheap Trick included, but I just feel that these bands were just out to have fun, keep songs simple and upbeat and get top 40 radio play. Cheap Trick and others at this time are not going to be remembered as bands that pushed the envelope but rather they just jumped on board the band wagon and had a blast.
I really liked this album and had fun with it. Surrender and Auf Wiedersehen rocked. I still can’t believe these guys released 5 albums in less than 2 years. That’s unfathomable in today’s music industry so if there are a few just ok songs on here you can understand why.
I also appreciated the band musically. Rick Nielsen is a great guitarist and has a great personality but all the members were very strong musically and Zander’s vocals are great. As we now live in an era where so much music and vocals is produced it is nice to know that even the pop-rock bands of this era still had to be able to play, sing and write their own lyrics and music.
I really liked this pick and I felt it is important to recognize bands like this. Sure, they didn’t write songs like Kashmir(though Heaven Tonight kinda sounded like the riff), but I know there are 1000s of karaoke bars all over the world right now with people belting out classic Cheap Trick songs and having a blast. Maybe they weren’t the best in this era or even my personal favourite, but I don’t press the skip button when they come on. Heaven Tonight is a nice listen beginning to end and is a nice piece to have in your music collection of late 70s early 80s rock beside AC/DC and Van Halen.
My personal opinion: 3.5
Would I recommend?: 4
Influenced my tastes: 3
Worth the hype? 4
 
Greg-JorgensenGreg Jorgensen’s Review
I’d only ever heard of Cheap Trick through films – Fast Times, and various other movie montages and such – so I didn’t know much about them; the only song I vaguely recognized on Heaven Tonight was Surrender. To be honest, I always thought they were Australian. Anyway, the first time I listened to this album I was thoroughly unimpressed. Upon a few further listens, my opinion is improved slightly, but not by much – this one just didn’t do it for me.
When I was a kid my mom had a huge burlap bag full of random, loose cassette that I used to listen to from time to time. Listen to a song, fast-forward. Listen to another song. Eject, find a new cassette. Nothing in the bag stuck with me – it was full of nameless, forgettable tapes from nameless, forgettable bands. Heaven Tonight reminded me of one of the cassettes from that bag – a collection of mostly featureless songs, few memorable hooks, and nary a hummable chorus.
Surrender is a catchy tune, Zander’s vocals pairing nicely with some tight guitar, plus a bit of keyboards around the edges to wrap the chorus in. I liked California Man as well, which sounds like a pretty good cover of a really good Zeppelin song. However, the rest just went in one ear and out the other; after three listens, I couldn’t hum any of the songs if you paid me.
I get that at the time, the album was probably pushing a few boundaries here and there. Cheap Trick did leave a legacy that helped shape the music landscape, and it’s entirely possible that my (sometimes arbitrary) tastes just didn’t go for the music that came out around the same time. But no…there was some truly badass albums arriving in 1978 – Some Girls by the Rolling Stones; The Cars by The Cars; and Van Halen by Van Halen, to name a few. (Admittedly, 1978’s top singles were by the Bee Gees, John Travolta & Olivia John, The Village People, and Boney M (via Wikipedia), so it wasn’t a totally awesome year).
But, I mean c’mon…the opening track of Heaven Tonight (Surrender) vs. the opening track of Van Halen (Runnin’ With the Devil). No contest. Compared to some of the other music that came out the same year, Heaven Tonight is weak, weak sauce.
My personal opinion: 2
Would I recommend?: 2
Influenced my tastes: 0
Worth the hype? 3
 
alain-dupuisAlain DuPuis’s Review

I first heard of Cheap Trick was when I was about 12. I didn’t know much about them except for the fact that they had allegedly come upon their band name after playing with a Ouija Board. This, to my 12 year-old mind, led me to equate the band with danger and rebellion. At the time, danger and rebellion was often all it took for me to get excited about an artist and dive right into their music. For some reason, I just never did with Cheap Trick.
Listening to Heaven Tonight for this month’s Sonic Collective definitely marks the most time I’ve ever spent exploring the music of Cheap Trick, and I’m glad Scott chose this one, because I definitely think I’ve been missing out.
It should be said that I didn’t enjoy the entire album. Some songs, such as California Man and the title track Heaven Tonight didn’t really do much for me, but I found myself rocking out to Auf Wiedersehen, and Surrender every time I threw the album on. Takin’ Me Back and On the Radio were both pretty catchy. To my ears, a few of the tracks sounded a bit too much alike. The guitar riffs are the reason for this, I suspect. They just didn’t really seem to break any new ground there. I was impressed by Robin Zander’s vocals. He seems to have a fair amount of versatility in his singing abilities. Strangely, despite this being a studio album, it sounded a bit low-fi for my tastes. (Budokan somehow sounded crisper to me.)
The album was solid overall, and I would imagine it would have made for a pretty fun concert-going experience. I’m kinda bummed I never got into Cheap Trick earlier on. They are a decent classic rock band, and they’re capable of writing some catchy stuff if you ever feel like some old anthem rock that doesn’t suck (Lookin’ at you, Kiss).
I’d encourage you to check out Cheap Trick at Budokan. I think I like it even more than Heaven Tonight.
My personal opinion: 4
Would I recommend?: 4
Influenced my tastes: 3.5
Worth the hype? 4
 
Scott GregoryScott Gregory’s Review

The 70s was an exciting time for music, full of experimentation in established genres and new genres spinning up weekly. To get a sense of what was going on when Cheap Trick’s Heaven Tonight came out I had a look at other significant releases that year:

  • Who Are You – The Who (final album)
  • Rumours – Fleetwood Mac (best album?)
  • Some Girls – The Rolling Stones
  • Outlandos d’Amour – The Police (first album)
  • The Cars – The Cars (first album)
  • Van Halen – Van Halen (first album)

When I think of rock in the 70s, I think of long-haired white dudes, jumpsuits bedazzled, standing three-across on a stadium stage belting out amazing harmonies and guitar riffs. Live. They’re the product of a generation that hasn’t lost hope, but needed an outlet for the political and economic tensions of their time.
By the time Cheap Trick cuts Heaven Tonight, they’ve got their sound down, their identity clear. They belong somewhere alongside The Who and The Rolling Stones sound-wise, but they’re speaking to a different generation. I could see them partying with Eddie and David over Keith and Mick, although at this point the Stones would have better “party favours”.
But, scene set, on to the music:
So, if all you’ve ever heard is Surrender (and could get five stars on hard), you need to pick up this album and give it a full listen. It’s Masters class on 70s stadium rock, aggressive guitar riffs and crisp drum-fuelled baselines. Layered overtop this are equally-crisp vocals delivering lyrics that speak to the heart of a generation.
Drugs, parent issues, girl problems, everything you ever felt angsty about growing up. They call out the radio stations (and us) for escapism (On the Radio), tell defeatists to eff-off (Auf Wiedersehen) and hey, your parents might not be all the bad! (Surrender) Oh yeah, drugs and partying are awesome. (They might have been, I was cresting into solid foods in the 70s.)
So, give the album a listen to. It deserves your attention at least once. How much you enjoy it might come down to whether you were falling in with the Who, Stones and other old-guard groups that dominated the start of the 70s or the new sounds being ushered in by groups like The Cars, Van Halen and The Police. If you’re like me, I was much more familiar with the later groups, but still hold a deep appreciation for the earlier. If you’re looking closely, you can still see the same influences all work across all these later bands.
My personal opinion: 3
Would I recommend: 4
Influenced my tastes: 2
Worth the hype: 4

Review of The Beta Band: The Three E.P.’s

Please read our selection of The Beta Band: The Three E.P.’s before reading our reviews below.
Summary: 
The Beta Band: The Three E.P.’s was a choice that we were all excited about after getting a tidbit of the song Dry the Rain from the movie High Fidelity. The good news was that particular song was indeed amazing and worth checking out. Listen now:

Now that you have listened to that song, we’d all recommend you save your money and time on listening to our buying the rest of the album. None of us really ‘got it’ and all the other songs either just sounded like elements from Dry the Rain or were just weird. I(Darren) had better nail my next pick or I think these guys will kick me out of the Sonic Collective. Lol.
What was cool about The Beta Band: The Three E.P.’s:

  • Dry the Rain. That’s it.
  • Ok, we’ll give them credit for trying something different as that is the only way to innovate. Maybe they just got a little too high after they wrote Dry the Rain.

What we didn’t find so cool :

  • Nothing else on the album was even remotely close to Dry the Rain. Many, including us, felt ripped off and cheated.
  • What the hell is that Monolith song? Can that be considered a song?
  • The other 10 songs all sounded incomplete and had similar basic structure and chords. “Hey, let’s just fill this album so we can say we have an album but we really just have one song.”
  • We didn’t get it.

We have also implemented a rating scale that you will see below in the reviews. All ratings are out of 5.
Reviews Average:
Overall opinion: 2.5
Would we recommend?: 2
Influenced our tastes: 1
Worth the hype? 2
Read our full individual reviews below. 
Don’t agree with us? Have a comment or suggestions? We’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment or contact us.
 

Our Full Reviews

 
Darren Scott
Darren’s Review
When I picked The Beta Band: The Three E.P.’s I really knew nothing about them other then the clip from the movie High Fidelity. I was really excited as the song Dry the Rain that is featured in the movie sounded awesome. When I did a quick search they seemed to be a very influential band as they were said to combine alternative rock, hip-hop and atmospheric music in a unique way. I’ll admit I was mildly disappointed with some past picks like Kraftwerk and Fela Kuti as I had high hopes and they let me down a bit. So let’s dive into The Three E.P.’s.
Starting off with Dry the Rain I was really pumped. Finally getting to hear the full song I was really excited as it left me wanting more. Such a great song. The next 5 songs had some moments for me and I did like B and A and I liked Inner Meet Me as well. I couldn’t help but think I was hearing the same chords over and over though and a few of the songs just sounded like strange outros that you’d usually hear at the end of albums as just filler.
And then I got to the song Monolith. What… the… f@$k…!? Ok, I love music. All kinds of music. But I can’t be a music snob and pretend I get stuff like this. I can imagine pretentious music-store-types saying how they really get this song and what they were saying. I call bullshit. I just think these guys were baked. Super baked.
I finished the album but was so put off by Monolith that it was hard to get through the final 5 songs. Again, the final songs seemed similar and incomplete to me. Any one of the 10 non Dry the Rain(Awesome) and Monolith(Batshit crazy) songs might stand as one of those tracks that are on an album that is ok but thank God the rest are better. Unfortunately, there are 10 of those songs. Boo-urns.
I will credit them for trying to do something very different(read super-baked), as that is the only way to innovate, and they did nail Dry the Rain, but I was left quite disappointed and let down in what I felt could have been a real winner. This wasn’t for me and I’m not sure who it is for, but I picture mad-at-the-world Emo kids(Are Emo kids still a thing?) with black fingernail polish on sitting in self-loathing really understanding where the Beta Band was going with their first 3 EPs.
Darren Scott
My personal opinion: 3
Would I recommend?: 2.5 (1.5 of this is just for Dry the Rain)
Influenced my tastes: 1
Worth the hype? 2
 
Greg-JorgensenGreg’s Review

The Three EP’s represents all that’s wrong with the music business. Okay, not all that’s wrong, but the album suffers from a problem that is part of a larger trend that has led to the industry fighting for its life as everyone tries something new, hoping that something – anything – will stick. It pisses me off. Every time I listened to the album, I got more mad than I was the last time. GAH!

The problem I’m speaking about isn’t new, but it’s a symptom of a larger issue that led to the music industry being in such dire straits today. That is, the song that opens the album (and which got the most exposure) is completely and utterly different from anything else on the album. 

Dry the Rain is a fantastic, rolling jam that builds into a superb, head-bobbing arrangement that I could happily listen to on repeat. And then, after that, the rest of the album is just shite. Noise and random unfocused warbling with weak vocals and meandering, pointless lyrics that go nowhere and mean nothing. If I bought this album based on hearing Dry the Rain, I’d be pissed. In fact, this is exactly what happened with the last CD I ever bought, around 2008, a self-titled album by a band called The Servant. I loved their song called Cells, so I bought the CD and it blew. I literally threw it away, just like I threw away $15 at the record store.

Like I said, the problem isn’t new. I remember my Mom telling me that when she was a teenager in the UK she would buy every Beatles album that came out, and was always disappointed when she spent her allowance money on an album that had new cover art, 1 new song, and 6 B-sides of songs she already owned. As the music industry enters its death throes, we’re starting to see the inevitable eventuality of that greed. People woke up, then they started buying only singles, and after that, albums didn’t matter anymore.

At any rate, the only other song I sort-of liked was She’s The One, which had some interesting elements but was just too repetitive and lightweight to really grab me. Perhaps my criticisms aren’t really fair – I mean, this is just a band doing what they do and I doubt there was any cynical master plan to dupe people out of money – but after a really cracking opening track, it just sucks that the rest was pointless noise.

My personal opinion: –
Would I recommend?: –
Influenced my tastes: –
Worth the hype? –

 
smcoates-About-Picture-200x300
Scott’s Review
Prior to listening to The Three E.P.’s, I had only heard The Beta Band when featured in the movie High Fidelity. The short bit of Dry the Rain that played in that film stuck with me and I found myself humming it here and there over the years despite never having heard it in full. Listening to The Three E.P.’s gave me a chance to enjoy Dry the Rain completely, and also realize that track’s easily the high point of the album by far.
These three E.P.’s were released individually between 1997-98, and then put together as an entire album, creating a non-cohesive final product. The first four tracks certainly are the catchiest and friendliest on the ears. Ultimately the rhythms, vocals, and overall feel are almost the same track to track. Their sound certainly is consistent, overly so, rendering them a one trick pony. By the time I was six tracks in, I felt as though I was simply listening to reimagined versions of the earlier songs.
It’s not all bad, with I Know and B and A being nice enough background tracks, but also feeling halfway on route something Beck does much better. Dog’s Got a Bone is all right and almost becomes a rich song but ultimately sounds like something a first year college band cranked out over a long night of too many bong hits. Then you get Monolith – what the hell?
Many of the tracks aimlessly meander, going on and on without arriving at any real climax or point. They employ too many whacky/unnecessary sound effects throughout that detract from the songs themselves, as if they were trying to confuse and unnecessarily challenge the listener.
After many listens I consistently found myself going from very much enjoying the first couple of tracks to being downright annoyed and struggling to finish the album. In the end The Beta Band had one solid EP in them and perhaps should have stopped there.
My personal opinion: 2
Would I recommend?: 2
Influenced my tastes: 2
Worth the hype? 2
 
alain-dupuisAlain’s Review

I can’t honestly say I’ve ever heard of The Beta Band prior to Darren’s pick. I don’t recall having seen High Fidelity either, though that video clip of the movie showing Cusack’s character selling the band’s music made me think that I’d be in for some conventional, albeit slightly quirky 90s indie pop rock. Alas, in what I’ve noticed becoming a bit of a trend with The Sonic Collective’s picks, I very quickly realized that this album wasn’t what I had anticipated it might be.
Let’s take a moment to break down the song “B+A”. A vaguely instrumental song, it spends the first three minutes of its six and a half minute length straddling an interesting line between surfer rock and electronica before making an abrupt and sharp turn into a high-energy guitar-driven song powered by a simple but throbbing percussion. There are no discernible lyrics, though vocals are present. I think it’s probably my favourite track on the album, though the jury is still out.
Then you’ve got “House Song”. It’s primarily made use of looping vocal effects the likes of which one could easily reproduce on an iPad with a $3 app. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. On the contrary, it’s simple and creative. There’s a catchy rap breakdown midway through the song that adds a whole different dimension to it.
Then you’ve got “Monolith”. It’s like 15 minutes long, and full of what can only be described as samples of random noises that reminded me simultaneously of the Mexican Riviera and an alien abduction. It was intermittently filled with weird glitchy noises and a bassline doing it’s best impression of a seam ship’s horn. Definitely not my jam. I actually found myself irritable whenever I listened to this song.
I think my least favourite aspect of The Three E.P.s is the sheer repetitiveness of many of the tracks. It made it difficult for me to get into. My best guess is that because I’ve spent much of my life listening to music with that old familiar song structure of verse/chorus/verse/chorus etc, The Three E.P.s sounds foreign to my music sensibilities, making it harder for me to get into than it probably should be. If I’m honest, this is a reflection of my own narrowly defined tastes in music, and a sign that the Sonic Collective is doing me the good service of helping broaden my musical horizons. Maybe yours too.
My personal opinion: 3
Would I recommend?: 2
Influenced my tastes? 1
Worth the hype?2.5

Review of Jane's Addiction: Ritual de lo Habitual

Please read our selection of Jane’s Addiction: Ritual de lo Habitual before reading our reviews below..
Summary: 
I (Darren) can definitely say that this album had an impact when it came out and even now 25 years later. We all had four different opinions of this album. In general we all saw some great positives but then there were varying opinions about the rest of their album. However, they were all strong opinions. Like they say, any publicity is good publicity. This applies to Jane’s Addiction and RDLH as many love it but others think they are just way too high for their own good and the music meandering. I’ll let the reader review our individual reviews but here is our overview.
What was cool about Jane’s Addiction: Ritual de lo Habitual:

  • The big hits Been Caught Stealing and Stop! are classics for a reason and liked by all of us.
  • Perry Farrell’s voice defined a new vocal style and was very unique in that time and still now
  • A few of us really enjoyed the crazy ride that the entirety of the album brought and appreciated the highs, lows and nuances of the music.
  • The album brought back fond memories to all of us older guys (cough cough – not Alain)

What we didn’t find so cool :

  • The music can be considered overly and unnecessarily complex, unconventional and weird.
  • That this album was potentially the by-product of heroin use.
  • That appreciating this album can take some time to grow on you. (Maybe that’s a positive point.)

We have also implemented a rating scale that you will see below in the reviews. All ratings are out of 5.
Reviews Average:
Overall opinion: 4
Would w recommend?: 3
Influenced our tastes: 4
Worth the hype? 4
Sound quality: 4.5
Read our full individual reviews below. We hope that you all enjoy such a great band.
Don’t agree with us? Have a comment or suggestions? We’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment or contact us.
 

Our Full Reviews

Greg-JorgensenGreg’s Review

Just as I expected, dusting off Ritual de lo Habitual after at least ten years had a powerfully nostalgic effect on me. As soon as Cindy Lair’s Spanish narration popped on, I was sitting in Tim’s basement, wearing Levi’s red tab jeans and a silk button-front shirt (tucked in, naturally), trying to understand it again. It might be a bit difficult to write objectively about this album, because it’s tied so closely to such a powerfully formative era of my life. But I shall try.

I’m happy to report that the ignorant kid confused by the appeal of Jane’s Addiction has been replaced with a (slightly) less ignorant adult who can see what they were getting at. Where before I heard Perry Farrell’s screeching voice, now I hear a powerful, raspy wail that’s playing a perfect counterweight to the expert musicianship from Navaro, Perkins and Avery. Where before I heard a band that was meandering and unfocussed, I now hear a band that’s slowly stroking the listener off with each song until BAM! it explodes in a burst of energy and focus. 

Stop is a suitable opening for an album that came out in the 90’s, surely one of the most bizarre and singular decades in terms of fashion, music, and technology. Fads weren’t just local adoptions of new trends, they were fast-moving energy waves that transformed entire swaths of the population, from skinny jean-wearing hair band fans at the beginning, to flannel-wearing grunge fans in the middle, to baggy jean-wearing hip hop wannabes by the end. 

I really enjoyed the rest of the album, save for No One’s Leaving, which was just okay. Ain’t No Right is a good example of a song that starts soft and then pops like a coiled spring. Obvious is a nice departure, I guess you could call it Janes’ version of a slow song. Been Caught Stealing was their standout hit from this album, and it’s pretty good – an easy, rocking rhythm that would have been perfect for any 90’s radio station wanting to be a bit ‘edgy’ with songs from an unconventional band. Three Days is an exceptionally cool song for my delicate ears – starting slowly and then progressing with an almost unnoticeable pickup in…well…noise. By the end of the song you’re rocking hard and can’t really remember how you got there. Subtle and powerful.

Classic Girl is an interesting one for me – I really love the lyrics, but I feel that songs like these and Jane’s Addiction should just agree to disagree. Maybe it was because back in the day I wanted to tell one particular crush how I felt about her; this song was the perfect message in the wrong wrapping, and playing this for my ‘classic girl’ as a romantic gesture would have not gotten me the result I wanted. Not that I got it anyway.

When I first posted the album to SC, I sent Tim a message and showed him my writeup. He loved it, and wrote back: “How could that be possible? They were the greatest band I’ve ever experienced. Their first album Nothing’s Shocking changed my life and being the impressionable teenager that I was, they really shaped my imagination and attitude.” Thankfully, I have a few decades of experience that I didn’t have then, and can appreciate RDLH on a much different level. After only 25 years, I can see where he was coming from. 

My personal opinion: 4
Would I recommend?: 3
Influenced my tastes: 4.5
Worth the hype? 4
Sound quality: 4.5

 
smcoates-About-Picture-200x300
Scott’s Review
I thought I knew Jane’s Addiction better than it turns out I do. I was sure I’d listened to Ritual de lo Habitual in full many times before, but that was an assumption, and outside of its two well-known singles, Stop! and Been Caught Stealing, I discovered I hadn’t consumed the entire album before. A great opportunity was presented with Greg’s pick!
I was surprised by the album after getting past opening track Stop!, as it turned and twisted into a bit of an odd, sometimes complex, often meandering volume that’s relegated me not entirely sure what to think. I remembered the time period of its release and Greg’s recollection of hearing it from a cool guy named Tim when he was younger, which mirrors my experience. Lindsey was that guy at my school and he loved it too. I’d heard it in his car in bits and pieces but was unable to digest it properly in my high school years.
Years later I’m still not sure it completely resonates, but does serve as a great time capsule of the time period and foreshadows what many bands emulated after. It’s full of angst, sexual ambiguity, sometimes-bizarre lyrics and rhythms, and has required many listenings before writing this. Overly and unnecessarily complex is where I stand with Ritual de lo Habitual.
Some tracks immediately stand out for their catchy licks, while others leave me slightly puzzled, as though the band was overstepping their capabilities in an attempt to make their mark on the musical world. When they stick to rocking, as they do so well on Stop! and Been Caught Stealing, it’s bliss. Other tracks go here and there, leaving me unsure whether to tap my foot or throw on a flannel shirt and be angry with the world.
Jane’s Addiction are now legends and many of their later works resonate more with me, and I completely respective Ritual de lo Habitual for laying the tracks for later bands, but overall it’s a bit too messy at times, which will likely leave me revisiting the two singles on playlists rather than the entire album.
My personal opinion: 3.5
Would I recommend?: 3
Influenced my tastes: 3.5
Worth the hype? 3.5
Sound quality: 4.5
 
Darren Scott
Darren’s Review
I was quite excited when Greg picked Jane’s Addiction, Ritual de lo Habitual as I was very familiar with that album. Ok, so it isn’t exactly pushing me out of my comfort zone and I have owned this album since it came out but I will admit it had been quite some time since I had listened to the entire album.
My first memories of this album were from when I was bartending in a live music rock nightclub and one of our DJs started playing Been Caught Stealing. That song was – and still is – awesome. I soon after picked up the CD and partied many-a-time to this album.
To me, more than anything, I was drawn to the sound of Perry Farrell’s unique vocal sound. As this was the era of grunge many of the vocals sounded more raspy like Kurt Cobain or more deep and brooding like Eddie Vedder. Jane’s Addiction seemed to break away from the surrounding Seattle grunge sound (which I love nonetheless) and create a new LA sound to dethrone the Hair Metal bands with peers like the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
As a complete album it does still stand the test of time for me, as I am old enough to remember the context it started in as well as appreciate it today. I like the ride the album took me on. Today we so often forget that music is part of albums, and those albums were planned by the artist(s) to be listened to in the order they meant you to hear it. I think Jane’s Addiction did an amazing job on this album and this will always be in my playlist. I can’t recommend this album enough. Definitely in my top 20 of all time.
My personal opinion: 4.5
Would I recommend?: 5
Influenced my tastes: 4.0
Worth the hype? 4.5
Sound quality: 4.5
 
alain-dupuisAlain’s Review

I never paid Jane’s Addiction any mind beyond the radio-friendly singles that charted, so when Greg suggested this album, I didn’t know quite what to expect. I only knew it was very likely gonna be weird, man.
Wouldn’t you know it, I was right. These guys were probably on an alarming amount of heroin while making the album. (In the band’s biography, Dave Navarro actually mentions that he barely recalled the recording process due to his addiction.) But, hey – I maintain that the Beatles wouldn’t have been nearly as awesome if they hadn’t discovered drugs, so I’m not going to hold anything against Jane’s Addiction. Though, I must really stress: This is a weird album!
Stylistically, 1990’s Ritual de lo Habitual sounds like it’s stuck somewhere between prog-rock, and some kind of proto-grunge. A few of the tracks sprawl seven or eight minutes in length and feature unconventional instruments, and unconventional time signatures. The song Of Course is a good example of this, and proves a stark contrast to the radio-friendly, short, catchy singles Stop! and Been Caught Stealing. The guitars are awesome, as one would expect from Navarro. Perry Farrel’s vocals are a bit shrill, which took me some time to warm up to. The song I kept returning to was No One’s leaving. It had just the right balance of catchy and strange for me. Definitely my favourite track on the album.
So, did I like Ritual? I think so, but frankly I don’t know for sure yet. I’ve listened to it about a dozen times, and it’s still kind of growing on me. I think this might be one of those albums that requires repeat visits in order to fully appreciate it. I’ll say this though: I’m going to explore the other albums in their discography, because if nothing else, my curiosity has been piqued.
My personal opinion: 3.5
Would I recommend?: 4
Influenced my tastes? –
Worth the hype?3.5
Sound quality: 4

Review of Kraftwerk: Autobahn

Please read our selection of Kraftwerk: Autobahn before reading our reviews below.
Summary: 
So far after 3 reviews we haven’t had too many disagreements and our views on Kraftwerk were again all fairly similar. The great thing about this group is that no matter what we pick we are dedicated to listening as objectively as possible and to give our best opinions. I’m sure that will change when I(Darren) hate something but for now we are all good. This is the last pick we will review this method as we are working on a better rating system. Ok, on with the review.
What was cool about Autobahn and Kraftwerk:

  • We all respected the creativity and innovation in their music and that leaders break the mould
  • We are amazed at the amount of artists we now listen to that credit Kraftwerk as a key influencer.
  • It spawned Mike Myers Dieter character on Saturday Night Live. Touch my monkey!
  • Umm….  that was about it.

What we didn’t find so cool :

  • The music. Sorry, but that was very true. None of us got it. Too unstructured and weird for us.
  • Didn’t seem to stand the test of time. That kind of sound effects and synth sounds dated.
  • Their singing. Lol.

We aren’t sure who to recommend this music to but I can say if you like Krautrock and hard-core electronic music you might like it. Thanks for the influence and your creativity Kraftwerk.
Read our full individual reviews below. We hope that you all enjoy such a great band.
Don’t agree with us? Have a comment or suggestions? We’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment or contact us.
 

Our Full Reviews

smcoates-About-Picture-200x300Scott’s Review
Kraftwerk is a band I’d heard of many times over the years, often as a giggling-aside by rock artists, but I’d heard them referenced enough that I figured they must carry some weight in certain musical circles.
Despite enjoying many genres of music and often digging to find their musical roots, I’d never headed down the Kraftwerk road, or autobahn should I say. Over the last decade-plus I’ve gotten into some electronic-centric bands like the Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk and The Crystal Method among others, but never understood how they make such music. I’ve wondered where such groups (or guys in a room with a couple computers and a keyboard) get their inspirations and now I partially know the answer I suspect.
Autobahn is bizarre and it’s not an album I see myself listening to again. It just doesn’t fit any situation, mood, or occasion that I usually play music for. That said, I’ve listened to it six times and enjoyed the experience, albeit on a multitude of levels. Some of the singing just plain cracked me up; at times sounding like a bunch of first-year college kids, semi-terrified around a recording device and not sure what to do. Each time I heard their voices I found myself grinning with a little laugh. Then comes a recorder (or flute?) on one track that made me think of the theme song to a children’s show I used to watch as a kid, The Friendly Giant. Bizarre but innovative, blazing new trails, and obviously completely cutting edge for the time, (or today for that matter) but just too out-there for me to completely grasp and enjoy on a regular listening basis.
The above said I completely respect the recording, band and what these guys did. Way back in 1974 when this came out, synthesizers and electronic instruments were virtually unheard of. Their use of the then revolutionary Moog Synthesizer was a foray into unknown territory and they had the balls to do it. Pioneers don’t always produce the best initial product, but they set the course for others to do so.
As I was listening to a Beastie Boys album recently, one of my favorite bands, I couldn’t help thinking they must have been influenced in part by Kraftwerk, or by other bands that were in some shape or form. It’s pretty easy to see (and hear) how Kraftwerk and Autobahn pushed music down a brand new road and they deserve a certain amount of respect and credit for that.
 
Darren Scott
Darren’s Review
I have to say that my first knowledge of Kraftwerk was in the mid-80s. I liked Depeche Mode’s Just can’t get enough. I heard that Kraftwerk were their influencers on Good Rockin’ Tonight, a Canadian video music show. Shortly after that I’d watch Saturday Night Live and loved Mike Myers Dieter character who often referenced Kraftwerk. From that point I always associated Kraftwerk with weird people to be honest. Ha ha ha.
In the decades that followed, being a music geek, I would hear of the influence they had but I never really gave their music a chance. I really went into this month’s choice with an open mind to try to give such influencers the respect they deserved.
I did realize almost instantly that this type of music will struggle to stand the test of time. I found the electronic sounds kind of cheesy and dated. It reminded me of 80s horror movie soundtracks. Ok ok… I said I’d give them a chance. Putting myself back in that time I do realize how weird it was to hear music with almost no traditional instruments. I imagine there were many people that were blown away by how unique these sounds were as it opened up a whole new music genre. I respect that, I really do. I also respect what they did.
For me though, it’s just a bit too weird and unstructured. To this day I still am not a fan of most slow tempo music and I love a great beat. Kraftwerk just pushed that too far for me. Thanks for your creativity, ingenuity and the great artists and technology you influenced. If you like off-kilter music I would assume you are already a fan. If you haven’t listened to them yet and aren’t sure, I’m gonna guess you may not love them.
 
alain-dupuisAlain’s Review

About 5 years ago, I listened to Autobahn at the recommendation of Alan Cross. He spoke highly of Kraftwerk in his book, The History of Alternative Rock, and it piqued my curiosity. To think that this eclectic group of German guys used primitive and unusual electronic instruments to create such groundbreaking stuff and influenced loads of different genres for decades?! Cool. Very cool.
So I gave it a listen, and frankly, I didn’t like it. I didn’t like it then, and I’m sad to say, I don’t really like it now.
I know. I chose this album to review, and it feels wrong of me to admit that it’s not my cup of tea, but at least I can honestly say I didn’t pick it out of personal bias. This album is supposed to embody a milestone of music history, a place where technology and sound intercept on a path that we’re still travelling on today. That was the basis for my choice.
The entire Autobahn album is basically one long audio-skeuomorphism that is meant to evoke the sensation of going for a drive down the Autobahn, and while I’ve never been on that road myself, there are certainly some parts evocative of highway travel. While your traditional pop-song structure is absent, there are times when the music is  catchy. There are also, unfortunately, many times where I felt like I was listening to nothing but white noise. I’m sure this was intended by Kraftwerk, but lets be honest… If I wanted to listen to the sound of traffic, I’d turn the radio off.
 
Greg-JorgensenGreg’s Review
My whole life I’ve kind of grouped Kraftwerk under the vague banner of “80’s Euro/German Pop” along with Falco, the Scorpions, Nena, and even Hasselhoff. Just kind of background noise that I’ve never been sufficiently motivated to explore in any detail. Listening through Autobahn, I can’t say I’m any closer to being motivated.
It’s clear that Kraftwerk played a big role in influencing the sound of future bands; bands which displayed a much tighter, mature sound that moved in a more focused and linear direction. As I listened, the two names that kept popping into my head were Daft Punk’s score for Tron: Legacy and Tangerine Dream’s score for Legend. (The last one is especially interesting, seeing as how Tangerine Dream were formed in 1967 and probably influenced Kraftwerk, although TG’s score for Legend was released eleven years after Autobahn, in 1985…so who influenced who?). But, influence does not equal greatness.
I’d also be remiss to forget to mention the other thing that popped into my head – Ross’ long-dormant music career in Friends.
Much like Ross’ compositions, I generally found Autobahn nothing more than a mash of random sounds, buzzes, whizzes, bells, bangs and noise, with no direction or focus. It’s supposed to represent driving on the Autobahn, which I’ve never done. Maybe I’d understand more after a trip to Germany, but I just don’t get it.

Review of Pixies: Doolittle

Please view our selection of Pixes: Doolittle here before reading our reviews below..
Summary: 
I think the best part of this artist and album review is how uncannily our reviews were alike. At this point, Scott, Alain and Greg send the reviews to me (Darren) and I compile and write the summary. I always write my review before I read any of my peers reviews as to not be influenced by them. I think I need to get one of the other guys to start compiling and writing these reviews as I am clearly the weakest writer, lol (Is that cool to write ‘lol’ like that at 45?). At any rate, back to the summary.
What was cool about Doolittle and the Pixies:

  • All of us with the exception of Greg mentioned we were influenced by the fact that The Pixies were one of Kurt Cobain from Nirvana’s influences.
  • We all really liked The Pixies and all gravitated towards some songs that we each loved. Funny enough, our favourite songs were all different, which is saying a lot in itself.
  • We really felt that the quiet-and-soft-then-loud-and-hard approach was a new and innovative concept that is apparent in many new alternative rock artists and influenced many bands you hear now.
  • The bass player and original member Kim Deal was a big deal. We mentioned how we loved her bass line as well as her vocals that contrasted Francis Black’s. It amazed me personally how she entered the band by being the only person to show up to the auditions but she didn’t know how to play bass, nor did she have one. You have to respect that. She learned over the 18 month period before they really started to play clubs.

What we didn’t find so cool :

  • As many great songs as we liked, we all felt that there were some songs that were “really out there”(Darren’s words) that we couldn’t connect to. Funny enough, as mentioned, we all had different songs that pushed our limits.
  • The band politics cut their career short. Kim Deal was replaced by some other Kim and The Pixies continue to tour but it seems more like a money grab than an attempt to produce great new music.
  • We were all shocked that the Pixies were not more popular in their time and unheard of until bands like Nirvana started referencing them as influencers.

We have all agreed that we would highly recommend buying and listening to The Pixies. We feel that everyone would take something away from this experience and appreciate the songs and the influence this moderately successful band had on current music. Well played Pixies… well played…
Read our full individual reviews below. We hope that you all enjoy such a great band.
Don’t agree with us? Have a comment or suggestions? We’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment or contact us.
 

Our Full Reviews

smcoates-About-Picture-200x300Scott’s Review
Having read a fair bit about this album before listening to it, as it was my pick, I’m wondering what impact that information had upon my impression of it? A lot I reckon. While listening to my very first Pixies’ album, Doolittle, I couldn’t help but think of the many comments I read online: everything from it being one of the best rock albums ever to how it shaped Nirvana’s sound on Nevermind. These comments definitely ticked away in my head as I consumed Doolittle’s 15 interesting tracks and tried to make sense of it all.
The album is a rich one that I’ve listened to in full about 10 times so far and am still not entirely sure what to make of it. There are obvious hit singles like Here Comes Your Man, then some downright confusing ones like Mr. Grieves, but the album challenges throughout. This was no doubt very new territory being explored back in 1989; two years before Nevermind came out and Grunge rock took the world by storm. And that’s where Doolittle impresses – it clearly informed so many bands’ music to come in the following decade. I Bleed sounds very much like Weezer’s Beverly Hills or vice versa, and I could hear a little bit of other bands in almost every track. There’s clearly a reason this album has become such a classic in rock circles.
I’ll continue to dig through Doolittle, listen to the lyrics (something I’m very bad for not doing) and will check out some of their other works. My interest is peaked and while I was hoping to completely love this album, the fact that I’m still not entirely sure demonstrates its depth and complexity. I may be a Pixies fan in the making.
 
Darren Scott
Darren’s Review
Ok, so I was already a Pixies fan and had their Wave of Mutilation – Best of Pixies greatest hits album and Surfa Rosa album. However, I had not really listened to Doolittle nor had I really given them the proper playtime in my play lists rotation. Would listening to this album and learning about this group make me want to get more Pixies, the same or less?
I was first exposed to the Pixies in the early 90s when I heard an interview with Kurt Cobain and Dave Grohl from Nirvana talking about how they based the song Smells Like Team Spirit on the style of the Pixies of playing slow and soft and then playing fast and loud. Kurt thought the song was so much like a Pixies song that he actually didn’t want in on the Nevermind album. Kurt Cobain then went on to rave about how much he loved the Pixies and their impact on music.
I listened to some of their stuff back then and thought it was ok, but perhaps a little too alternative for younger Darren at that time. About 8 years ago my music addiction escalated and I rediscovered the Pixies and I bought their Wave of Mutilation – Best of Pixies album. I bought Surfa Rosa after that and I do enjoy them but never felt compelled to really buy more.
After listening to Doolittle multiple times this month I can say that I am a bigger fan although there are still songs that I find uncomfortable. I guess I just didn’t have that much teen angst back in the day. Lol. The one thing that really stood out was the bass playing of Kim Deal. For the first time I really noticed the beauty of the simplicity of her bass playing. So many other bass players would try to embellish their role, especially as the band progressed, but Kim seemed to be able to stay in her groove and really drive the rhythm. I caught myself bobbing to her bass line more than the drumbeat, and I loved it. They also were playing a different style of music and alternative rock than anybody was playing then. I’m not the biggest fan of many of the new alt-rock artists as I find their music too slow and depressing, however you can’t deny that many have been influenced by the Pixies.
I’m happy to say that I would highly recommend listening to the Pixies for any fan of rock and alternative music. Buy Surfer Rosa and Doolittle, get yourself a little fuzzy and sit back and listen to a great amazing band that will push you to places that you’ll enjoy and perhaps even find a bit disturbing. A great pick Scott.
 
alain-dupuisAlain’s Review

As a kid, I was a huge Nirvana fan and found myself captivated by their enigmatic front-man, Kurt Cobain. I wanted to be just like him. I wanted to learn about the bands he liked. I wanted to know what influenced him. This was where I got my first exposure to the Pixies. I read that Kurt was heavily influenced by the Pixie’s use of dynamic range, and it was never more apparent than in Nirvana’s megahit Smells Like Teen Spirit. Kurt outright admitted to incorporating the Pixies’ unique quiet-and-soft-then-loud-and-hard approach to song structure. Despite such praise from the almighty Cobain, I didn’t give them much thought. I liked a few Pixies songs, but they were just too underground for my narrow-minded music sensibilities at the time, and the only kids I knew who liked them were proto-hipster douchebags.
When Scott suggested Doolittle for review, I was excited. I needed an excuse to objectively listen to the Pixies free from my preconceptions. Here are my thoughts on the album:

  • Most of the songs on Doolittle are really short. In fact, the entire album’s run-time is less than 40 minutes. There are only 2 tracks that exceed three minutes. If I saved up my allowance money for a Pixies album as a kid, I think I would have been pretty disappointed.
  • The songs tend to hold up pretty well today despite being nearly 3 decades old. They somehow combine surfer-rock, low-fi grunge, and pop music sensibilities nicely. None of the songs on the album sound particularly like the one before it, which I count as a plus.
  • I really dig the dual vocals between Francis Black and Kim Deal. The male/female vocal dynamics really play well with the loud-quiet-loud thing the Pixies are known for. I wonder if they influenced the band Mother Mother, who also employ dual-gender vocals to great effect.

I actually enjoyed Doolittle more than I expected to. I find myself regretful of disregarding them in my teenage years. My least favourite song on the album is Silver, and my favourite song is Gouge Away.
 
Greg-JorgensenGreg’s Review
The first time I knowingly heard The Pixies was during the final, perfect scene of Fight Club, when Where is My Mind played over scenes of exploding skyscrapers. That being said, I still didn’t know much about them, so was pumped to get into Doolittle.
I really loved this album. Well, parts of it I loved and parts of it were less memorable, but overall I think it’s a really tight listen. In my bio I say that I usually like the most mainstream selections of any type of music and this is no exception. By far my favorite tracks were the radio-friendly Here Comes Your Man and Gouge Away. I thought the rest of the songs were all good, but structurally seemed less cohesive – reminded me of many of the bands that came out in the mid-90’s that were defined by off-kilter singing and slightly wonky chords and choruses, ie the Gin Blossoms, Dishwalla, Better than Ezra, etc. But better than those one-hit wonders, of course. On top of that, I caught stretches that could easily have been a B-side from early albums by Nirvana, Weezer, and even Anthrax.
I read up a bit on Wikipedia, and was shocked to read the the album featured “references to surrealism, Biblical violence, torture and death”. Maybe I’m not listening close enough, but that stuff went right over my head. I also appreciated the few times where the band tried something really different – Mr. Grieves and Silver. Reminded me of the first time I heard Hot Dog by Zeppelin – as tight as their ‘regular’ stuff but a weird, fun departure.
The songs I liked most, mentioned above, are much more ‘poppy’ than the others. That, along with something I read saying that Doolittle strays from the Pixies’ regular more raw sound, make me wonder if I actually like The Pixies, or just like Doolittle. But I’ll happily dig into their full catalogue to find out.