¡Uno! – Green Day (Review)

Green Day ¡Uno! Album Cover

As Mama Odie said in Disney’s The Princess and the Frog, “You got what you wanted, but you lost what you need”. That quote could not be truer when it comes to the relationship between Green Day’s hardcore fan base and the band’s brand new album ¡Uno!

The first of what is planned to be a series of three albums released between now and the end of January 2013, ¡Uno! is billed as a return to a more classic pop-punk sound. Green Day may have picked up a whole new set of fans when they transitioned into an album focused stadium rock act with 2004’s American Idiot, but fans of the old sound still remained. They call for ‘Basket Case’ and ‘Longview’ at every show; they bemoan the appearance of keyboards and violins in the mix, and what they really want Green Day to go back to sounding like they did before.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Meat Loaf- Hang Cool Teddy Bear

Let me get this out in the open before I begin. I have never been a fan of Meat Loaf. For such a legend of rock, I found his music incredibly tame, and bordering on quite sappy and bland. He was just an artist I didn’t get. Popular? Undeniable. To my tastes? Barely, which is why his new release, “Hang Cool Teddy Bear” came as such a surprise to me. It is actually really good.

“Hang Cool Teddy Bear” is apparently the start of a new series of albums, like his previous “Bat Out Of Hell” trilogy. This time it deals with a wounded soldier’s visions of future lives he could have lived. Produced by Rob Cavello, the producer who gave Green Day their first steps into the realm of the concept album with American Idiot, this album sounds great. One problem I had with listening to older Meat Loaf was that for all the intended bombast, it never really came across due to incredibly flat and dull production. This is honestly not the case here. Sweeping orchestras, soaring choirs all back up the core, classic rock line up of guitar, bass, piano, drums and vocals. But that’s the main point, it doesn’t wash the rock into the background. Finally, the guitar track is actually audible on a Meat Loaf release!

I don’t know whether it will apply to rest of the series, but this first release filled with celebrity appearances. Justin Hawkins (most famously of The Darkness) turns up co-writing some of the songs and singing backup, Jon Bon Jovi co-wrote the final track of the album, and Steve Vai and Brian May both play lead guitar on a couple of the tracks. After playing Meat Loaf’s son in the movie “Pick Of Destiny”, Jack Black lends his backing vocals to a track, an American Idol judge sings a duet with Mr. Loaf and, craziest of all, the multitalented Hugh Laurie appears to lend his piano chops to the already star studded “Hang Cool Teddy Bear”.

This is of course forgetting the real star of the show, Meat Loaf himself. He may be getting on in years, but it hasn’t done his voice any harm. If anything, it’s added more of an edge. Meat Loaf’s voice is still flying high like you’d expect, but he’s gained a growl, a gruffer edge, and it really works for him. This isn’t the vocal of an aging rocker, this is the vocal at the peak of maturity. It’s very lucky that he is still so good because he is taking on quite an eclectic mix of styles here. He runs the gauntlet from waltzing power ballads to hip-hop influenced rockabilly, screaming blues-rock to prog-heavy metal. It is actually kind of amazing that so many songwriters writing so many styles could produce such a cohesive album. Each track flows really well to the next, despite only being linked by this overarching concept of a soldier’s visions, which thankfully doesn’t get in the way. This isn’t story album, it’s a collection of interlinked tracks and gladly they do manage to link.

This album has managed to convert me. Ok, you still won’t find “I Would Do Anything For Love” on my iPod, but I have had a great time with “Hang Cool Teddy Bear”. Meat Loaf’s consistently strong vocal is finally backed up by great songwriters, high-class production and star musicians, offering the backing that Meat Loaf has always deserved. Occasionally it’s a little corny, but it’s all part of the fun, and it wouldn’t be Meat Loaf without it. Lets just say I’m definitely keeping my eye out for “Hang Cool Teddy Bear II”

9/10

Standout Tracks:

Living On The Outside

Like A Rose

Song Of Madness

Download the Bonus Track “Prize Fighter Lover” at the  Album’s Site for FREE!

Junior Achiever- All The Little Letdowns

"Red Album? What Red Album?"

I don’t know about you, dear readers, but at the time of writing I’m getting rather tired of the cold and the snow that winter brings. It’s at times like these that you need something fun and fluffy to help you look forward to the warming rays of the summer sun. All this is why I was so glad to have Junior Achiever’s debut “All The Little Letdowns” drop onto my review pile.

Canadian based Junior Achiever don’t like to be labelled pop-punk, instead preferring the title ‘After-School-Special-Core’ of their own invention. While it is always nice when a band saves me from having to come up with a label for them, but it’s a lot easier to just think of them as pop-punk or power-pop, it describes them well enough. Simple lines, happy tone, few chord changes, occasional heartfelt quiet moments, fast drums, sounds like pop-punk to me. One way to look at pop punk bands is to see how they stack up against all the rest of the multitude out there. Junior Achiever are kind of like Blink 182 mixed with Weezer, except without the teenage humour, and with the inclusion of *shock horror* occasional swearwords!

One thing that’s easy to take from this is that they are pretty harmless. Even their occasional naughty words feel like a kid trying them out for effect, rather than being backed up by any malice. All if the album is reminiscent of other popular songs, but not quite enough to make you feel like you’ve heard it before, which is a reasonably happy position to be in as a part of the genre, especially for a debut release. After all, they’ve always got time to grow. Still, as I said before, it all sounds very much like what has come before it. The song “Better Than This” almost feels like a tribute to “Swing, Swing” by All American Rejects, “Dumb It Down” reeks of Blink 182’s “Stay Together For The Kids” and so on. Not that this is really that bad, if you like those songs you’ll probably like these, but they aren’t really adding anything new to the genre.

“All The Little Letdowns” isn’t really a letdown itself, but that’s only because I went into it expecting harmless pop punk, and that’s exactly what I got. It seems to stride a slightly awkward middle ground, however. If pop-punk isn’t your genre, Junior Achiever aren’t going to change your mind, at least not with this release. Sadly, on the other hand, if you are already a fan of the movement, “All The Little Letdowns” doesn’t have anything new to offer you. It’s a perfectly fine listen, but it’s just nothing game changing. Though if you have the money spare, and you want something to get you ready for when the sun finally does appear, then you could do a hell of a lot worse than “All The Little Letdowns”

6.5/10

Standout Tracks:

Another Stupid Love Song

She’s So Mean

California

Lostprophets- The Betrayed

"How Long Can YOU Stare Moodily Into The Middle Distance?"

Looking back at other reviewers takes on Lostprophets earlier albums; one word comes up repeatedly that actually seems a little bit out of place. The thing is, reviewers keep describing them as metal. I don’t know if their singles have been giving me the wrong impression about them, but metal is one word I would never use to describe Lostprophets. Well, not until their fourth release, “The Betrayed.”

Before I get onto the metal content of this album, let me quickly just judge a book by its cover, or rather an album by the same. “The Betrayed” has one of the most pretentious album covers I’ve seen in a long time. The front cover is not too bad, the album title and artist are in the centre, backed by dark bird wings on a black background, it’s maybe trying a little too hard to be edgily epic, but it doesn’t come across as too bigheaded. No, the big problem lies with the back cover of the album. It uses the layout of a movie poster, with the band members in the centre looking moodily into the camera. The album title sits in front of them, and beneath this the track names are disguised as movie credits. It just makes the band seem really bigheaded, which casts a bad light on the album in terms of first impressions. This is a pity, as “The Betrayed” is a legitimately darker album.

Ok, so metal then. I would certainly say that at the very least, this album starts off sounding like metal. It actually gradually softens up over the course of the album, but manages to retain a darker feel than much of the rest of their material. Even if there is a gradual softening, the songs “If It Wasn’t For Hate We’d Be Dead By Now”, “Dstryr and Dstryr”, “Next Stop Atro-City”, and the lead single “It’s Not The End Of The World But I Can See It From Here” all sound either mostly or totally like honest to goodness metal, making almost half the album full of darkness and distortion. Many of the rest of tracks hark back to their softer hits, but without going quite as poppy as songs such as “Last Summer” or “Last Train Home”. There are even a few little Ska influences in a couple of the tracks, and moments that bring to mind other British Indie bands like Futureheads and Fratellis, albeit with that “dark” vibe that Lostprophets have overarching the entire album. Even if musically, a song sounds like it should be jolly fun, the lyrics turn this the happiness into melancholy. If the lyrics aren’t quite doing it, there are some little industrial flourishes in the background of some songs just to add to that sense of unease and darkness.

Despite not having any songs that stick in the head quite as well as their earlier singles, and being stuck inside a very pretentious cover, “The Betrayed” is a thoroughly enjoyable turn from Lostprophets. They were trying to go darker, and they delivered, at least for the first half of the album.

7.5/10

Standout Tracks:

It’s Not Of The World But I Can See It From Here

Next Stop Atro-City

Streets Of Nowhere

Willy for Album of the Year 2009

The album format was once seen as a dying art, with singles seen as the way forward. This idea was given even more creedence with the rise of digital downloads, allowing people to easily cherry pick their chosen songs from albums and ignore the deeper cuts or intended order. However, this shift seems to be turning with the fall of the physical single, and bands being more adventurous with their album releases and concepts. This years Willy for Album of the Year goes to a band who are bringing the once unpopular idea of the concept idea back to the mainstream. And the award goes to…

21st Century Breakdown by Green Day

Building on 2004’s seminal American Idiot, 2009 brought about the classic rock influenced, pop punk, concept album wonder that was 21st Century Breakdown. Though with less of a plot than their previous release and possibly weaker singles, this was a far more cohesive album in this reviewer’s opinion, and is one that is designed to be listened to in once sitting, rather than cherry picked from. Songs flowing seamlessly into each other at points, the final track referencing the opening and many more touches like this make this a true representation of the album experience. While there may be argument over whether Green Day are punks any more, it matters little when they can produce albums like this.

Honorable Mention: Them Crooked Vultures- Self Titled

The Willies 2009- Review Of The Year

"I Only Wish I Could Give All The Winners One Of These"

Hello, and welcome to my (admittedly belated) musical review of 2009.

2009 seems to be best summed up as a year of nostalgia. More than any other year in the Noughties, 2009 seemed to be heavily harking back to the 1980s. Synths were making a comeback in all forms of music. 80s stars were hitting the limelight once again, for a variety of reasons from comebacks to deaths. In general, people seemed to wish they were still wearing leg warmers and listening to New Wave in a club somewhere. Maybe we just wanted to be happy in the economic downturn, and with the proliferation of songs telling us to dance appearing in the charts, I think this is a definite possibility.

2009 was the year artists such as Florence and The Machine, Lady Gaga and Susan Boyle came to prominence, showing the power of both originality and the industry’s influence. It was a year of comebacks too, with Blink 182 and Blur reforming, and The Beatles getting a new lease of life through remastered albums and their own video game. As with ever year, the music industry also lost some key bands and musicians to both break-ups and deaths. Oasis finally snapped, as did Chas and Dave. The world also lost the legendary Michael Jackson, and fan favourite drummer ‘The Rev’ of Avenged Sevenfold.

Despite these sad moments, 2009 was a year I think we should all look back on fondly, and so I present to you my awards for the year. Awards which I have dubbed “The Willies”. So without further ado, here are the categories for the First Annual Willy Music Awards:

New Artist of the Year

Live Artist of the Year

Free Download of the Year

Music Video of the Year

Album of the Year

Single of the Year

Overall Artist of the Year