Sunday, September 30, 2012

Album Review: Dinosaur

Dinosaur (they had yet to add the jr then) released their self-titled debut in 1985.  It’s pretty different to the rest of their albums as there are a whole load of different styles on this album.  J Mascis had yet to truly find his guitar sound, and it makes for a very interesting listen.  A couple of the tracks sound a little like the Cure, especially the Lou Barlow sung Forget the Swan which perfectly distils the essence of the Cure’s Fire In Cairo.
Cats In A Bowl barrels along the lines of label mates the Meat Puppets.  The Leper, Pointless and Repulsion are rockier, closer to the sound they became famous for.  Does It Float marries a load of different styles in the one song, starting out like the Cure’s Primary and morphing into a Meat Puppets chugger with shades of REM before lurching into screaming hardcore all in the one song.
Severed Lips is the most relaxed track here, an almost gentle strum with Mascis whining “I won’t cry if you won’t”.  The track is notable for one of the earliest of Mascis’ glorious guitar solos.  Final track Quest has a similar feel.  On the other extreme Mountain Man is speed metal, almost pure Creeping Death era Metallica even down to Barlow’s James Hetfield style vocals!
It’s a strange listen as the songs don’t hang together particularly well but it’s kind of fascinating to hear the band try out different styles.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Album Review: Lou Reed – The Blue Mask

For anyone who ever wondered how Lou Reed went from his chaotic 70s character to his professorial late 80s/early 90s character, 1982’s The Blue Mask may reveal the answers.  On this album Reed is playing the character of husband.  It starts gently with the gentle, middle-aged electric strum of My House.  Reed’s guitar combines well with Robert Quine’s throughout this album, on heavy workouts and also gentler tracks such as Women which features some really gorgeous instrumental passages.
It has to be said that the lyrics are a little trite on this album.  As a newly-wed (to Sylvia Morales) he embraces the concept of marriage – “I’ve really got a lucky life, my writing, my motorcycle and my wife” also “I love women I think they’re great”, neither couplet likely to win a Booker prize.
However the music is so strong the album succeeds, after the gentle, vaguely threatening The Gun we get the full-on assault of the title track which sees Reed and Quine’s guitars go completely into overdrive, rocking like crazy on this track, Reed barking threatening lyrics like “make the sacrifice, mutilate my face, if you need someone to kill I’m a man without a will” over feedback squeals.  Waves of Fear is in a similarly powerful vein.
But quieter tracks are more the norm, The Heroine and The Day John Kennedy Died.  Not all the tracks work – Average Guy is far too repetitive and banal (“I’m just your average guy trying to do what’s right”), while although Heavenly Arms has a decent melody, lyrically it’s cringeworthy, the chorus merely features the name Sylvia sung over and over.  However these tracks don’t detract from what is one of Reed’s stronger albums. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Album Review: Husker Du – Candy Apple Grey

Candy Apple Grey came out in 1986 and it opens with a noisy, jarring track Crystal… well noisy because of Bob Mould’s crazily roared vocals.  This track is not typical of the rest of album.  Grant Hart is in fine songwriting form, with two perfect power pop songs, the driving Don’t Wanna Know If You Are Lonely and the very Elvis Costello sounding Sorry Somehow (think it’s the combination of Hart’s vocals and the organ in the background).  What’s great about these songs is that they are catchy without being annoying, and Mould plays a fine guitar on both.  Later Dead Set on Destruction possesses the irreverent snarl of the Ramones’ Chinese Rocks.
They indulge in some sensitivity with Mould’s somewhat overwrought acoustic ballad Too Far Down and Hart’s dodgy piano ballad No Promise Have I Made.  But Mould’s repetitive yet great Hardly Getting Over It is a Westerberg/Replacements slice of wistful genius, a yearning tune over ringing guitars. 
Thankfully the second half of the album has a pair of fine rockers in Eiffel Tower High and All This I’ve Done For You (this one especially welcome after No Promise Have I Made).