Review of PJ Harvey: Dry

Please read Darren Scott’s selection article of PJ Harvey: Dry before reading our reviews below.
Quick Summary: 
I (Darren) picked this selection and will summarize though Greg’s review was not submitted at the time of this summary.
Though I was glad I picked this album it was apparent that PJ Harvey’s Dry may have been a little too rough, alternative and slow to have really clicked with the group. The sound is very reminiscent of the early 90s alternative rock scene but perhaps doesn’t stand up to the test of time as well as contemporaries like Nirvana. Her style is not main-stream at all and even Kurt Cobain admits that Nevermind was written and produced for the masses and not his favourite album. Whereas PJ Harvey, at the time of Dry was just trying to figure herself and her style out and was writing and playing for herself.
Her style isn’t for everybody but I would highly recommend you look at her catalogue of music and give her a listen, maybe just don’t start with Dry.
What was cool about this album:

  • Happy and Bleeding and Fountain were mentioned as favourites on the album.
  • This album is really raw and different and in a modern age of over-produced, same-sounding crap I appreciate efforts like this.

What we didn’t find so cool:

  • The rawness of the album and her attempt to push boundaries comes off a little weird in some tracks.
  • It’s a bit of a slow and repetitive collection of songs and you can tell she hadn’t quite found her style yet.

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? 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

Darren Scott
Darren Scott’s Review 
As mentioned in my pick article, I have been meaning to listen to PJ Harvey but just hadn’t got around to it. As we were running light in picking the amazing women of music, I felt this was the perfect time. As PJ has a vast catalogue of music it was hard to pick an album so I settled on her first album, Dry. I was close to picking her next album Rid of Me as I knew Steve Albini produced it and I love his raw production style. Anyway, on with the review.
I always like going back to the early 90s alternative rock scene as I was, and still am, a big fan of the bands of that era like Nirvana, Jane’s Addiction, Smashing Pumpkins, The Pixies, etc. I could definitely feel the sound of the era in this album and see why contemporaries like Kurt Cobain admired PJ Harvey’s first album. That being said, this album is definitely not a commercial album that would be liked by most music fans.
I liked it, though I found it was a bit too slow for my taste. Funny I say that as I actually found the track Fountain my favourite and it is a very slow brooding song. It reminded me of Nirvana’s Something in the Way. I also liked the popular tracks on this album Dress and Sheela-Na-Gig. I was impressed that PJ is a master musician and plays multiple instruments and wrote as well. For being so young she was very accomplished. That is not to say that this first album doesn’t show signs of being a little rough around the edges. I can always tell if I really love an album if I immediately have the urge to buy it. I can’t say I felt that urge here but I did feel like listening to more.
Listening to a best of compilation was very fun and I was drawn to her hits like Down by the Water, Good Fortune and 50ft Queenie. I really quickly grew to like her music and many of her albums. But for the sake of this review of Dry I have to rate this album only. As mentioned, I found it a bit slow for my tastes and some of the songs were just a bit too out there for me. I did see where she was going and there was more than enough to get me to explore more of here albums. Overall, I am very glad that I picked her(I still feel bad about the Beta Band pick) and I would highly recommend you explore her music, though you might want to start with a different album.
Overall opinion: 3.5
Would I recommend?: 3.5
Influenced my tastes: 3
Worth the hype? 3.5
 
Scott GregoryScott Gregory’s Review

I’ve heard snippets of PJ Harvey all throughout the years, but I have to admit I’ve never given any of her albums a full listen before, let alone the first one. I remember her most for singing Down by the Water, which got a lot of play around my parts back in the day. Still, taking a quick look at the Billboard Top 100 for that year, the fact that Baby Got Back , Jump (Kriss Kross),  and Humpin’ Around are the songs that got me reminiscing should tell you where my head was back then.
The only song I recognized off this album was Sheela Na Gig, and I do remember it on the radio way back. PJ (Harv?) has a nice lilting cadence to her singing that really appeals to me. It takes me to the same place the Letters to Cleo, Veruca Salt, and Juliana Hatfield do, with a little splash of Liz Phair’s freaky side. (Joydrop is on the list too, if you’re Canadian and might recognize them!)
I went through quite a phase of Female Alt, and it surprises me now that she didn’t make it onto my playlist more. Limited exposure in North America? I’m just oblivious sometimes? Probably a bit of both, but that’s exactly why I’m in the Sonic Collective! My buds can enlighten me on.
That being said, O Stella was pretty messed up. I’m still trying to decide if I like the song or not. It doesn’t feel overproduced, especially on the backing vocals, but it feels like it was thrown together at a jam session. Not that the whole album doesn’t feel a little thrown together. It’s hard to tell if this is on purpose or not, but Victory has a beautiful baseline intertwining beautifully with the guitar work that makes me think it’s more craft than crap.
I could say that Oh My Lover was my favourite song, but Fountain has this manic-depressive cadence, a nervous energy that really pulls me away from the loud, angst-filled thrashing of Lover and makes me want to go put on some black eyeshadow and watch the Crow, or at least listen to the soundtrack.
Overall, I enjoyed the album, but I think I would have enjoyed it more 10 years ago, cycled between the artists mentioned above, with maybe some Hole and L7 to round things out. I say give it a listen, because you’ll have fun trying to classify her and line her up with your favourite artists too.
The Numbers
Overall opinion: 3
Would I recommend: 4
Influenced my tastes: 2
Worth the hype: 3

smcoates-About-Picture-200x300
Scott Coates’s Review
PJ Harvey – the name was familiar, but I couldn’t name a song. I was certain I must know something by ‘her’, or was it a ‘band’ called PJ Harvey? Not sure; still not sure. But it turned out I’d never heard a single track by this entity in music. Dry was submitted as December’s pick and I dipped in intermittently throughout the month.
I kept listening to this album not really remembering it, but not being driven to listen again. Time and time again I thought I must have been distracted while listening, hence my lack of desire to partake again, but after some time and many listens, realized it just wasn’t jiving with me.
While trying to figure out why I couldn’t really get into this album, the sound, or even a song, I kept thinking of a girl in high school who was ‘alternative’, cute, we knew each other a bit, I was intrigued, but was never enough like her to ever really make a connection. I think the same principle applies with PJ Harvey and Dry. It’s that interesting, semi-unknown, kind-of-hot-girl, that only a select few ever really get close enough to, to understand, like and appreciate. I’m just not the guy.
Overall this album sounds like a college demo throughout and never much more. It’s just too raw and ‘out there’. I can’t imagine when or why I’d put it on. There’s not a time I’ll be needing more of this. It really is a good time capsule of the outer rings of the alternative time and community of the early nineties and a very select group, but one I’m not a part of, nor can I identify with.
Victory almost gets me interested, Happy and Bleeding starts to provide some intrigue but then it dies, Hair is almost there, but then the lyrics and rhythms don’t quite elevate me enough. There just isn’t one track on this album I’d put on a playlist.
I try to be very optimistic, open, and wanting to like all selections within The Sonic Collective, but I’m afraid PJ Harvey’s Dry leaves me just that – dry – without any pleasure and no desire to explore her catalogue further.
Overall opinion: 2
Would I recommend?: 2
Influenced my tastes: 1
Worth the hype?: 2
 

alain-dupuis
Alain Dupuis’ Review 
“What the heck is a PJ Harvey?” I asked myself out loud, as I read Darren’s pick for the first time. Obviously I was unfamiliar with her music until this month’s review. I dug in eagerly, and… well, frankly after a number of repeat plays, I’m still not quite sure what to make of Dry.
I liked:
PJ has a really unique voice. The vocal delivery is on point, dynamic and precise – but with a bit of raw edginess. I couldn’t help but find myself drawing comparisons to Janice Joplin, for better or worse.
I really liked the song Happy and Bleeding. Easily my favorite song on the album because of it’s relative complexity compared to other songs on the album. Despite being a bit of a slow-starter, it builds up in dynamic range and adds layers of instruments and vocals as it carries on.
Plants and Rags features a chaotic array of string instruments, which I thought was a neat touch. Usually when artists add strings to songs, it tends to give them a bit of serious or solemn feel (think Glycerine, by Bush). In this case, it made the song weird and interesting
I didn’t like:
A lot of the songs seemed quite repetitive. Despite most tracks on the album being relatively short in length, some of them just seemed to drone on and on. I can’t really recall any one song that stuck in my head after listening
I didn’t feel that any of the tracks had a hook or anything to reward the listener. Not necessarily a requisite depending on your audience, but it didn’t win any points from me.
Final thoughts
I liked Dry for what it is – An early 90s grunge-ish folksy album featuring untested talent. Would it make it onto my permanent play list? Nah. I don’t think so. It just didn’t do enough to reward me as a listener and keep me engaged enough to come back for more.
Overall opinion: 2.5
Would I recommend?: 1
Influenced my tastes: 1
Worth the hype? 3
 
Greg-JorgensenGreg Jorgensen’s Review
The only thing I knew about PJ Harvey was that she was a musician; oft-talked about and frequently referenced, but no one that I had any familiarity with whatsoever. I was excited to get into it and enjoyed most of it, but sadly, don’t think I’ll be going back to PJ Harvey anytime soon.
This strikes me as very much what I call a “snapshot record” – that is, a very concise picture of a certain time in musical history. In this case, it’s the early 1990s, which is made clear by the fuzzy guitars, the edgy and concise lyrics with a hard-edged voice belting them out, sometimes off-key but never weak or unsure of itself. Snapshot records aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but have trouble retaining legitimacy outside of the narrowly-defined timeframe in which they originated.
There were songs on here – even parts of songs – that I really, really liked. Oh My Lover had me on the first note, although it never really emerged as the power anthem I wanted it to, and Dress rocked right along at a great clip that I loved. Most of the other songs were good…just fine…not great, not really awful. The kind of music one might expect to hear on a grungy 90s action movie like The Crow. Perfect to put on at a house party as great background music. (my snapshot of the early 90s included a lot of house parties…perhaps then no surprise that this comparison came up for Dry).
All of this, however, is not taking into consideration Plants and Rags, which may be the most aurally abusive song I’ve ever heard. I mean Jesus, it’s like someone picked two songs at random and then forced them to mate. Garbage.
But trying to pick one standout moment is really hard for me. As a whole, it’s a pretty decent album that strikes me as something perfect to have in the background and ignore (reminding me of this great scene in the amazing High Fidelity).
Overall opinion: 3
Would I recommend?: 3
Influenced my tastes: 0
Worth the hype?: 3

Motörhead: Ace of Spades

Ace_of_Spades_Motorhead_album_coverI was in the beginning stages of writing up another selection for January when I read that Lemmy Kilmister, lead singer and ringleader of Motorhead, passed away. There were few musical icons as well established, admired, and entrenched as Lemmy, who was truly a rock God among musicians. There was no one else like him and will likely not be another father figure of hard rock like him again. He talked the talk, walked the walk, and drank the drink. It was who he was – period.
 
While looking at Motorhead albums online and listening to some tracks, I realized I don’t remember ever listening to a Motorhead album from start to finish. I’m about 30 years overdue, so this month’s pick is Motorhead’s seminal Ace of Spades in honor of The Man.
 
While this was the band’s fourth release in the UK, it was their first in North America, hitting stores in November 1980. They were clumped into what was referred to as the ‘New Wave of British Heavy Metal’, but Lemmy always insisted they were simply Rock n’ Roll. Their sound influenced countless hard rock bands, including Metallica who credits them for much of their sound.
 
Pour a Jack Daniel’s (Lemmy’s favorite), turn it up real loud, and strap in for Ace of Spades.
RIP Lemmy – it’s no doubt quite a bit louder wherever you are!
 
Links

 
Other Albums Considered

PJ Harvey: Dry

I’ve been thinking for a while that we have gone too long without focusing on the amazing women in music. I’m a big fan of so many of the great women in rock and PJ Harvey is an artist that I have been intending to listen to for a few years now. Every now and then I’d hear or read her name somewhere. As a big Nirvana fan I had heard that Kurt Cobain was a huge fan of this album and of PJ Harvey. When Nirvana was inducted into the hall of fame Dave Grohl even asked her to perform with Krist and himself but she was unavailable.
I don’t know that much about her but I am excited to learn. Just doing the basic research to write this pick has piqued my interest even more and a quick scan of several of her albums has lead me to believe I am really going to enjoy PJ.
It’s so hard to listen to all the music you want to, but I am now happy that I get the chance to listen to this album.
Biography.com offers this summary:

British singer and songwriter PJ Harvey is best known for her wide range of musical styles, ranging from rock to electronica and folk.
British singer and songwriter PJ Harvey was introduced to music at an early age and began writing songs as a teenager and joined with bassist Steve Vaughn and drummer Robert Ellis to create PJ Harvey in 1991. She is best known for her wide range of musical styles, exploring rock, electronica and folk. Outside of music, Harvey also expresses herself through art. READ MORE HERE

About Dry

Speaking to Filter magazine in 2004, Harvey said of her debut album: “Dry is the first chance I ever had to make a record and I thought it would be my last. So, I put everything I had into it. It was a very extreme record. It was a great joy for me to be able to make it. I never thought I’d have that opportunity, so I felt like I had to get everything on it as well as I possibly could, because it was probably my only chance. It felt very extreme for that reason.”
Some other resources:

PJ Harvey – Dry on Wikipedia
PJ Harvey on Wikipedia
PJ Harvey Website
PJ Harvey facebook Page
PJ Harvey in Rolling Stone
I really had a hard time picking this time. Some other great albums with women leads I almost picked were:
Heart – Dreamboat Annie
Etta James – At Last
Bikini Kill – self titled – (Watch The Punk Singer on Netflix.)
Enjoy.

Review of AC/DC: Back in Black

bon scott and brian johnson

Please read Scott Gregory’s selection article of AC/DC: Back in Black before reading our reviews below.
Quick Summary: 
I(Darren) guess I wasn’t too surprised that the reviews are mostly extremely positive for this album. If anything, I kinda thought that most of us might be so sick of the big hits that we may give this a more negative review. I was wrong. Say what you will about AC/DC, but they know how to rock and they keep it simple. You have to read our reviews as we all rediscovered this amazing album. Enjoy.
What was cool about this album:

  • It’s Back in Black, one of the best selling albums of all time. Wow.
  • The non-single tracks were really great too. Several commented on how much they liked What Do You Do For Money Honey.
  • It was released 6 months after their lead singer Bon Scott died. Holy shit.

What we didn’t find so cool:

  • Hey, these guys aren’t writing the most intelligent and complicated lyrics. Some of the lyrics were misogynistic and show their age and the opinion of women in the 70s.
  • Alain made a comment often heard that once you have heard one AC/DC song, you’ve heard all of them.

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: 4.5
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

Scott GregoryScott Gregory’s Review

Back in Black!
Some of you may recognize this AC/DC album because it’s the sixth-most selling album of all time. Others might recognize it as the theme song for Kim Kardashian’s second wedding. However you found your way (Which is appropriate, since What do you do for money honey was playing at the proposal.)
AC/DC is one of those bands you either love or hate, and my thanks to the crew that already loved AC/DC and signed on to review it despite their familiarity with the whole album. I only knew the singles, and I’m excited to take a look at the full show. So, without further ado:
The history behind this album had me intrigued. I knew the band lost their lead singer (Bon Scott) early in their journey, but I never knew exactly when Brian Johnson signed on. Back in Black (1980) is the first album with Johnson. Between his penning the lyrics, and Robert Lange solidifying his role as producer on a second album, you can see a definite divergence from the 70s albums.
This is a rock album, at a time when rock meant:

  1. drinking
  2. fighting
  3. fornicating

I had no idea of the depth of this album. Depth from a “there are a lot of well produced songs on this album” perspective, not “this really changed my world view and I’m going to eat less meat and be kinder to animals.” But seriously, I came in expecting to really love the couple songs I know from the radio, but I was very pleased with the rest of the tracks. The pace and progression through tracks made it obvious this was a well thought album. This is a the type of musical journey I was hoping to find when exploring full albums.
I won’t say too much about Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution, Back in Black, or You Shook Me All Night Long. We all either love or hate them, and have heard them a thousand times. For the record, I’m on the “love them” side of the fence. Especially the intro to You Shook Me All Night Long. All three songs are instantly recognizable, but the steady unfolding of Shook just hits all the right points for me. It’s everything I need a rock song to be.

Hells Bells

Seriously? The lead off track and it wasn’t made a single? For all the reasons I love Shook, Hells Bells also delivers, but on a slightly slower pace. The progressive build from the bells to the guitar to the percussion into the vocals, it’s just a well-crafted intro. I could listen to this song all day, all night. If I played guitar, I’d warm up to this every session.
I’ll give you black sensations up and down your spine
If you’re into evil you’re a friend of mine
See the white light flashing as I split the night
Cause if good’s on the left then I’m sticking to the right
Hell Ya! The lyrical structure is great. Elements of the different stanzas combine with the chorus to form the outro, and create a great symmetry to the overall song. I just love this song every single way possible.

Shake a Leg

Magazines wet dreams dirty women on machine’s for me
Big licks skin flicks tricky dick’s are my chemistry
Goin’ against the grain tryin to keep me sane with you
So stop your grinnin’ and drop your linen for me
Shake your leg shake your head
Shake a leg wake the dead
Shake a Leg? More like Shakespeare! Ok, maybe not quite. But, there was a lot of drinking, fighting, and fornicating in ol’ W.S., so maybe I’m not that far off. This is the obligatory “I’m a rebel, and I don’t care what they think” track. It was likely my least favourite track on the album. It didn’t have a lot of the elements I enjoyed, the guitar felt way too busy, and I just could never get into the groove with it. Maybe if I actually played guitar I’d be having fun playing the solo, but really all it makes me wonder is how pissed Malcolm must have been watching his younger brother Angus shred every night.

Let Me Put My Love Into You

Don’t you struggle
Don’t you fight
Don’t you worry cause it’s your turn tonight
Let me put my love into you babe
Let me put my love on the line
Let me put my love into you babe
Let me cut your cake with my knife
Awww, it’s a love song!
Apart from keeping rape culture alive and well in the early 80s, how can you not love “Let me cut your cake with my knife”? Ok, I’m stuck halfway between laughing at the lyrics these guys penned, but admiring how they put it all together. It’s like a great Spinal Tap album, only they’re being serious.
But, it was a different time, and what you could get away with on the radio has shifted a lot. I would honestly prefer hearing about a girl’s cake than “Bitch better have my money!” (Just kidding, I love you RhIRhI.)
Funny aside: according to Urban Dictionary, RhiRhi means ”Dirty amusement ride usually situated in the carpark of pubs or in the bushes nearby. Very cheap, however almost always disappointing.” Tru dat.
Anyway, apart with a struggle to get in to Shake a Leg, I enjoyed the entire album and highly recommend giving it to a listen, new or old fan. It was completely worth filling in the holes on the singles, and I can see why it ranks so highly on the all-time lists usually dominates by more radio-friendly bands.

The Numbers

Overall opinion: 4.5
Would I recommend?: 5
Influenced my tastes: 4
Worth the hype?: 5

smcoates-About-Picture-200x300
Scott Coates’s Review
Perfection is a big word to use and a tough thing to achieve. AC/DC may have attained just that with Back in Black, and under no easy circumstances. The band’s original singer Bon Scott died just six months before the album’s release, a new singer, Brian Johnson was hired, and the album was quickly knocked-out during severe weather in the Bahamas. In some respects almost everything was against the band and AC/DC could have just as easily slipped into the annals of history. Instead they propelled themselves to a new level of superstardom with Back in Black, the second best selling album of all time behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
Few bands have managed to successfully replace a liked and established singer, especially one with vocals as raspy and unique as Bon Scott’s, but AC/DC did it. Somehow Brian Johnson not only met Scott’s unique sound, but in many respects took it up a notch. And all the more remarkable is that Johnson, new to the band, penned Back in Black’s lyrics, not changing the band’s penchant for party music that’s all about drinking, women, and fun. The planets were aligned in 1980 when they entered the studio with producer ‘Mutt’ Lange to record one of history’s great rock albums.
Some moments stick with you forever, and the first time I heard Back in Black is one. I was about 15-years-old, sitting outside Lloyd’s Recreation where I worked in Calgary, Canada one evening, in a co-worker’s car, and he put in the Back in Black cassette. We sat there and listened to it from start to finish. It was roughly 1989 so the album was no longer new, but it was for me. I was in awe and completely absorbed the raw sound of the guitars and vocals. I didn’t understand all of the lyrics but knew this was something special that would slowly be revealed as I grew older and via subsequent listens. I also remember the first time I saw the word ‘AC/DC’. It was carved into wooden playground equipment at school when I was in Grade 2. I never could have guessed way back then that this band would become one of my favorites.
From start to finish Back in Black delivers bare bones, gritty, fist-in-the-air, unapologetic rock and roll that not only defined the time period, but is timeless. There’s nothing complicated about the chords, melodies, and riffs, and that’s what makes it so accessible for so many. Every single track is solid – there’s no filler. There are few albums I turn to more frequently when in need of a dose of rock fuel than Back in Black and no doubt generations to come will do the same. This may be as good as rock n’ roll comes. Back in Black truly is perfection.
Overall opinion: 5
Would I recommend?: 5
Influenced my tastes: 5
Worth the hype?: 5
Darren Scott
Darren Scott’s Review 
This was an interesting pick this month that actually caused a little controversy. We always meant this as a group to discover music by listening to great music that influenced others. In the beginning we even stated that if too many of the members has heard a chosen album we would come up with a second idea. However, as we have been at this for a year now, the Sonic Collective is growing and changing into something else. I think we have realized that unless we are picking very obscure bands that there will most likely always be 2 or 3 of us that are familiar with every pick. Now, it is more about picking an album that was influential in its time and really enjoying the album as a whole. We are learning that picking obscure bands like Fela Kuti and The Beta Band(My bad) isn’t always a win for us. We all decided that letting Scott pick AC/DCs Back in Black was just fine even though all of us were familiar with the album. Sure, we all remembered the big songs, but when have you put on the album and listened from start to finish and thought about what this album meant back in 1980? Probably not in a long time. That’s the beauty of this group, we really stop and listen to these classics and think about what they meant in the era they were released. With that, on to my review.
Please go read the pick article from Scott Gregory as it is important to know that this was the first album released after former AC/DC frontman Bon Scott got super wasted in a London pub and was put in a car to sleep it off. Unfortunately, he choked to death on his own vomit. Enter Brian Johnson who took over as frontman to a broken band trying to find a new identity.
I’d like to think that the album starting with a bell being rung is a nod to Scott as a final salute and goodbye. And then the music kicks in. I remember when this album came out and hearing it at my older cousin’s house. I thought it was awesome at that time and I still totally enjoyed it. Sure, Back in Black and You Shook Me All Night Long have been overplayed, but for good reason. They fucking rock. In an era where The Who and Led Zeppelin where creating complicated rock operas it was a breath of fresh air to hear a band like AC/DC or KISS that just played fun, simple and upbeat tunes that you can’t help but air guitar with and belt out every lyric. I really enjoyed listing to this album several times this month. I also really liked What Do You Do For Money Honey that I had long forgotten about.
This album was and continues to be huge. What a comeback! Your lead singer dies and within the same year you bang out an album like this. Wow. People make fun of AC/DC and say that all their songs sound the same(and that is kinda true), but give them credit, as they are the best at what they do. I’ll rock out to AC/DC any day and that would be one of the first albums I’d play. Loved this, go back and listen for yourself.
Overall opinion: 4.5
Would I recommend?: 5
Influenced my tastes: 4
Worth the hype? 5
 

alain-dupuis
Alain Dupuis’ Review 
Admission time: I’ve just never really been that big into AC/DC. When I saw Scott picked this album, I was thinking to myself “Ah, dang… This isn’t gonna be a fun one”. That was admittedly a pretty closed-minded approach to the pick, and you’ll be happy to know that since listening to the full album, my thoughts on the band have changed. Somewhat.
I liked:
Hells Bells is still a catchy song even if I’ve heard it a million times. I like the nefarious lyrical contents too. Who doesn’t like the odd sprinkle of Satan in their rock n’ roll?
Shake a Leg couldn’t sound more like a Led Zeppelin song if it tried. (I consider that a good thing.) It’s a fun song, and I’d never heard it before reviewing the album so it’s still fresh to me, which helps my sway my opinion in a positive direction.
What Do You Do for Money Honey is a fun song as well – Again, as it’s fresh to me, I like it better than most of the other tracks on the album.
I didn’t like:
I really don’t like the title song, Back in Black. Like Hells Bells, I’ve also heard it a million times, but it just annoys me at this point.
There’s definitely a distinctive “AC/DC” sound that is a common thread In all of their songs. They kind of just blend together in my mind after a while – Especially true of their singles, of which this album generated a fair number.
Final thoughts
I actually liked the songs I hadn’t heard before way more than the ones that received air-play or gained notoriety for other reasons. This helped me to enjoy the album a little bit more. As stated before, I was never a big fan of the band. Their music just tends to sound too homogenized for my tastes. It’s like, once you’ve heard one AC/DC song, you’ve kinda heard them all, you know?
Though, I gotta respect a band that can continue to tour for decade after decade, largely on the merits of their old music. And they have a massive fan base.
Overall opinion: 3.5
Would I recommend?: 2
Influenced my tastes: 1
Worth the hype? 3
Greg-JorgensenGreg Jorgensen’s Review
There’s a funny story about Back in Black and why I consider it to be my gateway drug into the awesomeness of rock and roll. When I was about 11 (BiB would be about 6 years old by this point) I visited a friend’s house and heard from his brother’s room the beautiful sound of church bells. And then, to my horror (I was a fairly religious kid), they were disrupted by an awful electric guitar, and then drums, and then those screeching vocals…and then I walked away to where I couldn’t hear the music. Clearly my friend’s brother was satanic. Honestly, to a young Christian boy, this was a really disturbing incident.
Thankfully, I’m not a moron anymore and can appreciate what a monumental classic Back in Black is. I can’t imagine the pressure that must have been put on Brian Johnson for this album, this being his first after taking the reins from Bon Scott, but man, what a huge sigh of relief this album must have been. For me, Back in Black is the musical equivalent of Star Wars Ep IV: A New Hope – I’ve seen/heard it a million times; I know every line/beat/riff, and know all the trivia about it, but no matter how many times I watch/listen, I love it. It’s part of what movies/music is to me. This is the thread that the canvas of rock – at least what rock means to me – is made of.
Okay, I may be getting a bit hyperbolic, but there’s not a lot more to say. Every song here is awesome. Even the weak ones (Givin’ the Dog a Bone, Have a Drink on Me, Shake a Leg) still have elements that cause me to nod my head and tap my foot. Listening again after so many years was interesting though; for instance, in Let Me Put My Love Into You – if I wasn’t listening too hard you could probably convince me it was a KISS song, especially with incredible lyrics like “Let me cut your cake with my knife.” Okay, I kid a bit, but you know what I mean. And trying to detach myself a bit from the album’s personal importance to me, one could also make a pretty convincing argument that the album doesn’t really excel at creativity; its songs are sort of like a collection of limericks in that way – they’re all different but when you take a step back, they’re actually all pretty similar. But that being said, there’s nothing wrong with doing one thing and doing it well, and AC/DC do it better than anyone out there.
Overall opinion: 5
Would I recommend?: 5
Influenced my tastes: 5
Worth the hype?: 5

Review of Muse: Black Holes and Revelations

Please read Greg Jorgensen’s selection article of Muse: Black Holes and Revelations before reading our reviews below.
Summary: 
There was no dispute that all of us saw the greatness in Muse and felt that they really owned their sound. Sure they sounded like other bands at times but they are very unique. Muse doesn’t need us to tell them they are great and they will be a remembered band for years to come. Maybe they are too ahead of their time though. Time will tell.
I (Darren) was quite surprised by all the reviews. I think we all went in thinking this would be a band we would most likely all love. However, we each pointed out something that didn’t sit right with us as individuals but we varied in what we didn’t like. Muse is a complicated band, very complicated. It is not music you can just ignore in the background like most pop music, it is meaty and flavourful.
Though we all had our beefs with Muse we all definitely recommend that you listen to this album and their work. Take a few minutes to read our in-depth reviews.
What was cool about this album:

  • A bold new complicated and musically complex sound and songwriting is a must listen.
  • Knights of Cydonia – an album favourite.
  • You know Muse are hall of fame musicians.

What we didn’t find so cool:

  • They often sound like Queen. Every one of us mentioned that and we write all reviews separately.
  • They might be ahead of their time. The music was complicated and sometimes hard to follow.
  • Darren felt that Matthew Bellamy’s voice got super annoying after listening to the album several times.

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: 3.5
Would we recommend?: 4
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

Greg-JorgensenGreg Jorgensen’s Review
As I mentioned in the “pick” section for this album, I can’t believe I only discovered Muse this year. This is a band that I would have LOVED 10 years ago for a few reasons. That being said, having listened to almost their entire catalog – and having some of the excitement wear off a bit – I can say that Black Holes and Revelations is indicative of their retinue for me now – not solidly great, but with a lot of fantastic, varied, catchy stuff.
There are a few things I like most about BHAR (as well as the rest of their music). The first is that they really mix up their sound. Some songs (like Take a Bow) are completely unique and different from others on the album, while still remaining catchy enough to be favorites. Others (like Assassin) start out incredibly gratingly, but turn out to be awesome. Still others (like Map of the Problematique) enjoy what I liken to ‘layers’. Have you ever been listening to a song and feel there should be a bit more there? More what? Who knows, but more. I think Muse is great at layering in sound upon sound until there is just a solid wall of music. Me – I like that.
It’s clear their inspirations come from all over the place – at various times I was reminded of Queen, Bush, Extreme, or even Zappa. (insert “Zappa the queen’s extreme bush” joke here). While the album isn’t a solid hit – Invincible and Hoodoo are a bit weak, and I don’t know what the hell’s going on Soldier’s Poem – I still think it’s got enough solid material to earn its reputation as a winner from one of Britain’s biggest bands.
PS – Not sure if you’re like me, but the first note of Take a Bow hit me right away – the song was used to great effect in the trailer for Watchmen.

Overall opinion: 4.5
Would I recommend?: 4
Influenced my tastes: 1
Worth the hype?: 4.5
 
smcoates-About-Picture-200x300
Scott Coates’s Review
I was excited by this month’s pick as I’d heard of Muse many times over the years but couldn’t name one song by them. Despite their sound fitting into the spec I usually enjoy, they somehow had totally evaded me. Black Holes and Revelations is an intricate work that definitely requires many listens to begin to grasp and it got many plays over the last month.
While I really enjoy some of the deep rock licks, such as on Knights of Cydonia, which really gets rocking and is a fitting near-ending track, I wish the album had stuck more to the rock, leaving out the electronica it incorporated at times. While I completely appreciate the unique sound and style Muse went for here, I found the blend not entirely pleasing at all times. In fact, I’m still wondering how these guys came up with their sound? It’s so unique and they should be applauded for taking an interesting path rather than following the masses and typical sound.
There’s a grand, rock-opera factor at play, much in the vane of some of Queen’s work. It’s at times truly epic and I wondered if it was written to accompany a play or movie? The album as a whole was fun at times, and at others, not so much. It’s definitely complex, requiring one’s attention and doesn’t make good background music while working. I can’t imagine listening to any of these songs on its own, as there wasn’t that stand-out single, but it’s a complete work intended to be digested from start to finish.
All in all, while I enjoyed parts of this album, no particular points really stick out, and it all sort of blended together in my mind. That said, I’m glad innovative rock is still alive, I’ll seek out some more of Muse’s albums and had a lot of fun this month.
Overall opinion: 3.5
Would I recommend?: 4
Influenced my tastes: 3
Worth the hype?: 4
Darren Scott
Darren Scott’s Review 
Muse. Hmmm… Muse. This was a groundbreaking review of an album for me as something happened during the month of listening that has never happened before. What you ask? Well, let’s get into this shall we.
I had known of Muse and had some songs in my music collection and I have to say I realty liked them. I’m not sure why I had never bought more of their stuff, but like many artists I hear, I just don’t have the time and money to buy and listen to it all. So, for me, Muse was always on the fringe of my collection and taste. I was delighted when Muse’s Black Holes and Revelations was picked for October. So I dove right in.
I have great headphones for my iPod(Yes, I still have a big, clunky iPod Classic with the 160GB hard drive. I just love having all my music collection with me at all times and phones storage doesn’t cut it. Why is storage still expensive anyway?). I commute every day so I have about an hour, which is perfect for an album listen. I cranked BH&R and let myself immerse in it. I was totally blown away. I forgot how amazing of musicians that Matthew, Dominic and Chris are. The mastery of their instruments and the amazing structure and complexity of the songs was a refreshing treat to my ears. I though to myself, finally someone is using highly technical production techniques for the good of music rather than wasting it on over-producing and auto-tuning almost every pop song we hear. I believe that this is Muse’s greatest strength and they will be appreciated for many years because of this. By the end of the album, I was sold. I was definitely going to buy all their albums and be president of the fan club(Ha ha ha). Then, the craziest thing happened.
Throughout the month, I started listening more to BH&R. Second time-good. Third time-still good…I think. Fourth times-Um… this is starting to be too much. I waited a week or so. Fifth time-Um… does Matthew Bellamy’s singing sound slightly annoying to anyone else? Sixth time-ok, I actually don’t think I like Muse anymore. Are they not just a modern Queen that only has one method of delivering lyrics?

I was amazed, as you might be, that with each listen I actually started to find Matthew Bellamy’s singing annoying as fuck. I am actually listening right now as I write this and I want to make him stop. I can’t help but perform an analogy between the over-acting of Jim Carrey and the singing of Matt Bellamy. Hey, there is a place for this and many fans love Prog Rock. Unfortunately, I never really embraced progressive rock bands. I’ll admit that even some Rush songs are too much for me and bands like Marillion never really did it for me.

I do stand by my statement that Muse’s musical abilities are amazing and they will be a band of the ages. I do also still like their hits and would listen to them in a playlist. However, I don’t think I will ever listen to a full album again of them. It’s just too over-sung and dramatic for me. I have never been so in love with a band on first listen before and to then, so shortly, fall out of love with them. It reminds me of my grade 9 crush Jennifer Ross. I was so Twitterpated with her and then shortly after dating her she was too cool and mean and I lost all interest. I wish the best of luck to Jennifer and to Muse. Not my thing, though I do love Queen. Freddie was the man.
Overall opinion: 2.5
Would I recommend?: 4
Influenced my tastes: 1.5
Worth the hype?: 4
 
Scott GregoryScott Gregory’s Review

So, waaay back when Muse hit the scene, I never really got into them. Why would I listen to the bargain-version of Radiohead when Radiohead was still out there cranking out great work? The biggest impact Muse had on my life was helping strip most of the flesh off my thumb for the better part of 2011:

But, sometime between then and now, I reignited a love interest with Meatloaf, Queen, Veruca Salt, and Dread Zepplin. That common thread of over-the-top rock showmanship is present in this album, and coming back to it a decade later I find a deeper appreciation for what they accomplished.
I perused a lot of the UK reviews from back in the day, and many agreed this was an ambitious, audacious and outrageous rock album. The subject matter was flighty, fantastical, out of line with current rock vibes and a throw back to the 70s when you could get away with references to Mordor in your songs. (Thanks Page and Plant) How could you not love this album? I look back now and wonder.
I’m a big fan of driving guitar riffs, and this album is filled with great work. It’s almost insane how varied the selection is. Many of my favourite groups have such signature sounds that I can tell most of them by their instrumental work within seconds. I can’t find that common thread here, and I like that. Until you hear Bellamy’s voice on Assassin, you could honestly believe you were listening to a new System of A Down song. Similarly, Soldier’s Poem reminds me of some of the moodier, low-key Queen tracks.
Back and forth through emotions, themes, and down through the rabbit hole into Cydonia I followed Muse, and it was a draining, fulfilling experience. By the time the last track Glorious started to wind down, I was honestly left thinking, “what now?” Seriously. What do you do after listening to an album like that?
By now it should be clear I enjoyed the album as a whole; here’s a breakdown on the three tracks I enjoyed the most.

  1. Knights of Cydonia

Easy pickings I know, but it’s the first track I ever heard off the album, and listened to easily a hundred times more than any other Muse song. Thanks to Guitar Hero, I’ve made my fingers bleed for this song, and it deserves some attention in this review. It’s big, beautiful, and throws back to rock-opera, space-opera, and what the hell, probably even opera-opera. This is probably what Pavarotti sings in the shower. I’d have no problem adding this to my Car-eoke list (right after John the Fisherman), scaring the people in the SUVs next to me. I feel sad for them because they can’t join in.

  1. Starlight

I think I’ve previously mentioned my love of progressive baseline and rhythm in other reviews. The drums really come through and actively control the entire makeup of this song. Bellamy’s smooth, lilting and flowing delivery of the lyrics plays a perfect counterpoint to the sharp snares and crashing cymbals. It’s a beautiful mash up that, once you settle in to it, hides a very touching love song. It’s very rare that I value instrumental composition over lyrics, but this song had me distracted for a good half dozen listens before I even thought of deconstructing the words.

  1. Map of the Problematique

Muse lists Depeche Mode on their list of influences for this album, and I think I feel it mostly on this track. Of course there’s no way Bellamy would ever provide the same haunting, dark edge to a song that Dave Gahan provides, but I can feel the tension, the energy coming through like I would with DM. It reminds me of dancing away the 90s at the Warehouse on British Alt Night. If you dropped this in the middle of In My Arms and Friday I’m In Love, you’d have the perfect threesome to close the night on a happy note.
Ok, let’s talk numbers:
Overall Opinion: 4.5
Would I recommend?: 5
Influenced my tastes: 2
Worth the hype: 4.5

alain-dupuis
Alain Dupuis’ Review 

I’ve heard a number of Muse songs on the radio over the years, but I hadn’t given a listen to a full album before this month’s pick. I’ll cut right to the chase here: Black Holes and Revelations is good. Really good.

I liked:
On this album, Muse has this masterful way of pulling together elements of a variety of genres and making something cohesive that sounds good.
They take the driving, distorted guitars and feedback of grunge-rock, steep it in electronica, add a dash of musical theatre flare, and sprinkle it with science fiction.
On Take a Bow, the song starts out with an energetic spacey sounding synth, and continues to drive that energy up, louder and louder until the song ends in an echo of guitar feedback. If this song came out in 1997, I would have been in heaven.
In Map of the Problematique, the percussion and syncopation of the synths drives an almost tribal anthem that finds some juxtaposition with a haunting piano or a kickass guitar riff at various points in the song. For some reason, the track really stuck out in my head as being something special. (Completely subjective, I know…)
I didn’t like:
Is it just me, or do the vocals start to sound a bit whiney after a while?
The single Starlight didn’t do much for me, and if I’m being honest, it never really has. I can’t quite pin down what it is I don’t like about it, but I think the fact that it used to get a ton of radio airplay might be a factor.
Invincible. For the first half of the song, it plays like a rejected U2 song that whales are mating to (I shit you not). Frustratingly, I always found myself wanting to skip it – that is, up until the 3:30 mark, when the song takes a completely tangental turn into some bizarre, spacey rock opera and becomes likeable.
Final thoughts:
While not every track on Black Holes held my interest, I couldn’t help but fall for the crazy shitmix of sounds that congeal into an epic album. Overall, it’s solid, and most of the songs on it had something awesome to offer. I don’t know that I’d listen to the album from front to back on the regular – whiney vocals for 45 minutes? No thanks – but certainly tracks like Knights of Cydonia, Take a Bow, and Map of the Problematique will see heavy rotation on my playlist.
Overall Opinion: 4.5
Would I recommend?: 5
Influenced my tastes: 3
Worth the hype: 4.5

AC/DC – Back in Black

Back in Black is the seventh studio album by Australian rock band AC/DC. Produced by Robert John “Mutt” Lange, the album was released on 25 July 1980 by Albert Productions and Atlantic Records. (Thanks Wikipedia)
This album represents a crossroads for AC/DC. The band’s rising international success is walking a razor’s edge thanks to the untimely death of lead singer Bon Scott. Brian Johnson has stepped in, further opening a door to “outside” influence the band has just barely started accepting in the production studio. Will the emotional highs and lows of the past year break the band or, if it survives, what will the music sound like after hitting the studio again?
Looking back, we know Johnson’s addition to the band has worked out fairly well, and Back in Black is the second-highest selling album of all-time. It’s in the same company as Thriller, The Dark Side of the Moon, Bat Out of Hell, and Rumours. Rarified air indeed. By like those albums, there are 20-30 years between their release and today. How does this album stack up today?
Some members of the team have a history with this album, so we’ll see how things shape up between those of us listening to it in-full for the first time and those returning to rekindle the magic with an old flame.
Rock and Roll ain’t noise pollution, so crank it up, crack a beer and join us on the journey.
Listen to AC/DC’s Back in Black on Google Play Music

Useful links

Wikipedia – Back in Black
Wikipedia – Best selling albums
AC/DC Homepage

Other albums under consideration this month

Tears for Fears – Songs from the Big Chair
Kris Kristofferson – The Silver Tongued Devil and I
Heart – Heart

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
 
smcoates-About-Picture-200x300
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
 
smcoates-About-Picture-200x300
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
 
smcoates-About-Picture-200x300
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.