Saturday, August 29, 2015

Album Review: The Posies - Frosting On The Beater

The impression I had of The Posies is that of a slightly fey, strumalong band who listened to a bit too much Big Star and Teenage Fanclub.  But their third album Frosting On The Beater, released in 1993 is a dirtier, heavier beast.  It gets rid of the jangly guitars, replacing them with heavy riffs.  It works really well.  From the opening track Dream All Day. the drums hit harder and the guitars rock more, while maintaining a catchy tune.  In fact the likes of Solar Sister and Flavor of the Month aren't too far off Teenage Fanclub's debut album A Catholic Education.

The album is definitely informed by the prevailing musical mood at the time in America, which was grunge, hence it was produced by Don Fleming (Sonic Youth, Screaming Trees, TFC etc).  But it works terrifically - the rollicking Definite Door is absolute gold.  Opening with a defiant guitar flourish, the track barrels along with a killer melody batted back and forth by hard-riffing guitars.

Some of it can be self-indulgent, Burn & Shine goes on a bit with an extended guitar outtro, as if they were trying a little too hard to show off how well they can play their guitars, while later Lights Out can be a little repetitive.  The album actually improves in the latter half, many of the better tracks have been squirrelled away here.  20 Questions could be something off Neil Young's Ragged Glory, the Posies cranking out the riffs in a very Crazy Horse manner with Mike Musburger pounding the drums as if his life depends on it, and How She Lied By Living is in a similar vein, almost grunge-like in its intensity.  The album finishes with the downcast, bluesy Coming Right Along.

This is an album that defines that over-used term, power pop, as there is plenty of both here.  Anyone who likes Teenage Fanclub will surely enjoy this.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Golden Void – Berkana – Album Review

Review for

True Widow: As High as the Highest Heavens and From the Center to the Circumference of the Earth

This is True Widow's second album released in 2011.  For the uninitiated, they combine Nicole Estill's ghostly, detached vocal with Dan Phillips' bleakly heavy guitars on tracks such as Jackyl and Skull Eyes.  The latter of these is one of their shortest tracks and one of their most accessible, with some fine harmonies over bludgeoning riffs.  The Phillips-sung Blooden Horse is one of the rockier tracks here, while his guitar on NH sounds particularly ragged.

Wither features some really fine guitar playing, Phillips unleashing economic yet effective braincrushingly heavy riffs.  Later, the lengthy Boaz builds up gradually, with the full onslaught holding off for four minutes or so before guitars take flight, while Night Witches and Doomser are practically metal on ketamine, trudging along with huge riffs.  If you like your guitars heavy yet controlled, this is worth checking out.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Midlake - The Courage of Others

2010's The Courage of Others is the follow up to the critically acclaimed Trials of Van Occupanther, and it's even mellower than its predecessor.  Soft, folk-rock abounds, beginning with Acts of Man and continuing through tracks such as Winter Dies and Small Mountain.  Standard rock instruments are joined by flute, recorder, dulcimer, autoharp and even bassoon!   The slightly heavier guitars of Core of Nature are a welcome interruption to the soporific atmosphere.

But at its core this album proclaims its love for seventies soft rock like Crosby Stills and Nash (Fortune, Children of the Grounds), Blue Oyster Cult (Rulers, Ruling All Things, The Horn) and Fleetwood Mac (the title track).  It's not all hoary old dinosaur music, Bring Down could be early Radiohead wearing flower garlands, and there's enough variety with the guitar playing to prevent Midlake from being total retreads, the Marr-like picking on closing track In The Ground being a fine example of this.

The album suffers a little from lack of variety, it's a little one-paced.  Although the musicianship, playing and the overall sound of the album is excellent, the odd burst of noise here and there wouldn't go astray.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Alice In Chains - Black Gives Way To Blue

Alice In Chains' first album in 14 years came out in 2009.  With Layne Staley having passed, it seemed heresy to hire a replacement, but they did in the shape of William DuVall.  However on listening to opening track All Secrets Known, any fears seemed unfounded.  Jerry Cantrell's slow heavy riffs dominate, with his and DuVall's voices combining superbly on some twisted harmonies.  Second track Check My Brain has a seriously catchy, yet heavy riff and a killer chorus, up there with vintage AIC.

Such an opening is hard to sustain, and they don't quite manage it.  There isn't much wrong with heavy riffing tracks like Last of My Kind, A Looking In View and Acid Bubble.  Elsewhere they trot out a few moody ballads such as Your Decision, When The Sun Rose Again and the title track.  Again, nothing wrong with these but they aren't especially distinctive.  Later tracks Lesson Learned and Take Her Out growl along very agreeably over heavy guitars.  But overall, for those who badly missed Alice In Chains in 2009, this album recreated their sound perfectly.