Sunday, March 4, 2007

An Off-The-Beaten-Track Music Review

By: Vanessa Uy and Bones

As a 10 year old girl living in an impoverished country. I am lucky to be able to play around with my aunt’s and my new best bud’s record and CD collection. There’s this older dude who’s been romantically involved with my teen-aged aunt. I could say I like him but that would only incur the wrath of Child Services with their SWAT style Elian Gonzales type intervention.

Bones owns maybe close to a thousand CDs all of them original. Some are Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs and Chesky CDs that retail between PhP2,500 to PhP5,000 each. My aunt has about 75 LPs and some rare 7inch singles (Avril Lavigne singing Greenday’s Basket Case). It would be a pity if civilization falls or this country goes to hell -whichever comes first that no one will be able to listen to them. As a principle, we don’t review music downloads because their sound quality is either highly suspect or not up to our standards for long term listening. Unless they are available in high data rate formats like 24 bit 96 Khz digital or better. Or of topical interest like the latest Al-Qaeda chatter. We have good ears and fortunate enough don’t yet live in a war zone like downtown Baghdad.

Lets start with Vanessa’s 10 favorite CDs.They are in no particular order of excellence.Bones may also form an opinion on the following:

1.American Thighs by Veruca Salt (released 1995)
2.Little Earthquakes by Tori Amos (released 1991)
3.Ritual de lo Habitual by Janes Addiction (released 1990)
4.Under My Skin by Avril Lavigne (released 2004)
5.Liz Phair eponymous (released 2003)
6.Saturday Morning Cartoons Greatest Hits by various artists (released 1995)
7.Piece of Mind by Iron Maiden (released 1983)
8.Nature Film by Scrawl (released 1998)
9.If I Were A Carpenter by various artists (released 1994)
10.Rust in Peace by Megadeth (released 1990)

Majority of these albums are released way before I was born and almost all of them are American. Which serves as a critique to the music industry and our local talent. Get off your lazy asses and read Nietzsche you bums!

+ Vanessa’s review on American Thighs:

If I were to select an album, which describes my overall personality, it might be Veruca Salt’s American Thighs album. This is one of those albums, which I listen to from start to finish without skips in my listening sessions. It’s one of the most musical sounding CDs I’ve ever encountered. When I mean musical its when I can turn up Bones’ PhP500,000 audio system to garage band sound pressure levels (110 dB S.P.L.) without hurting my ears. I hope that someday I can find a vinyl LP of this album.

+ Bones’ review on American Thighs:

It’s safe for me to say that for more than a decade this album still has the goods to occupy in my personal top 10.Musical, you bet ,pump up the volume and the drums become almost real. Nina Gordon and Louise Post are one of my favorite vocal pairings.

+ Vanessa’s review on Little Earthquakes:

Bones told me a very interesting story about how he used to listen to Tori Amos’ piano playing back in 1992 to compose creatively fresh and interesting power chord runs via a Les Paul /Marshall set up. I also do the same thing somewhat in reverse. When I was 5 and taking piano lessons. I do power chord runs on the piano from the heavy metal songs I've heard like Judas Priest’s Breaking the Law and it turned out “Tori Amosy sounding”!

To me this album is musically and lyrically transendent. If Friedrich Nietzsche were to have a musical influence other than Richard Wagner, it would be Tori Amos. My favorite track here is “Tear In Your Hand” which is also Bones’ favorite.

+ Bones’ review on Little Earthquakes:

Vanessa almost described this album the way I would have to a T. I thought she liked “Precious Things” , a song about Tori Amos’ critique on Christian Slave Morality.

+ Vanessa’s review on Ritual de lo Habitual:

The LP I’ve used in this review is from my grandpa. It’s only an ordinary pressing ,not those fancy Mobile Fidelity Soundlabs version. But it’s a hell a lot better than the CD.I can play this louder than the CD. My Aunt May and Bones used to play this LP on my grandpa’s refurbished Linn turntable, and it kept the impure thoughts and deeds of my aunt and Bones from manifesting. Those two look like a Norman Rockwell painting everytime they listen to a good LP. Musically and lyrically this album probably defined the alternative rock movement of the 1990’s. The songs are about addiction , dependence and those other things (feminism in the 1980’s?) that are anathema to anglo-saxon machismo. To me, Janes Addiction reinvented hard rock right then and there.

+ Bones’ review on Ritual de lo Habitual:

There’s something that I’m uncomfortable with Janes Addiction. It’s not that the CD, recorded and produced maybe in the late 1980’s still has some audio bugs that most CD’s recorded in the mid 1990’s to present already left behind. And majority of modern rock recordings on CD are good at emulating that good ol’ LP sound. It’s the way Janes Addiction structures their songs. Like the song “Then She Did…” it’s structure is more akin to a Jazz Fusion band studying at Juilliard School of Music than a Punk band at CBGB’s. Which goes against the trend most bands are going through in the start of the 1990’s. At this time, most hard rock and heavy metal groups were exploring Punk circa 1977. But thanks to my eclectic musical taste my love affair with this album lasts until this day. And the better my stereo gets the better this album will sound. This could be defined as a healthy addiction.

+ Vanessa’s review on Under My Skin:

Avril Lavigne, the voice of my generation. Well, that statement kinda makes me feel a bit, just a bit, uncomfortable. As a songwriter, she’s up there with the best. Some critics compare her to Joni Mitchell. I’ve listened to Joni Mitchell’s album “Blue” a little while ago. Joni was the supposedly voice of my granma’s generation (she grew up in the 1970’s). I suspect Avril’s claim to fame as a generational mouthpiece is an unintended byproduct of the music industry’s failure to adapt to 21st Century marketing. But that could be seen as a can of worms that no one should dare open. Believe me when I say she’s the best ( she looks like my aunt ipso facto she’s pretty). She writes some personal stuff that has universal appeal, which as I last checked, made Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain into “rock icons”. I just wish I haven’t heard this older chick called Liz Phair.

+ Bones’ review on Under My Skin:

I’ve read an article some time ago after the tech community declared victory against the Y2K Bug, which states that the future is a foreign country. I’ve became involved with Vanessa’s aunt about the same time when Avril Lavigne broke through the musical scene seemingly out of nowhere. Are young people today so different from us (both socially and culturally) folks who grew up during the time when Ronald Reagan was planning to use ray guns against an “Evil Empire”. Long story short, Vanessa’s aunt was into Star Trek and Friedrich Nietzsche thus another one odd pairing. Later she went to some air force/astronaut academy in the ‘States and I got stuck with some shrink punk kid. Avril Lavigne was labeled punk by the media for some time now which is kind of disconcerting for me. To me, whose been around when punk first came around, punk will always mean CBGB era Debbie Harry or Excene Cervenka of the band “X” or more contemporary ones like Lunachicks and 7Year Bitch. For me, Avril Lavigne is an excellent singer/songwriter. Another good thing she does is by donating a significant part of her earnings to ”Warchild” a humanitarian group which Vanessa and I may become involved when this country goes to hell. I just hope that before she turns 40, Avril will write a song similar to Lunachick’s “Spoilt” or “Fallopian Rhapsody”.

+ Vanessa’s review on Liz Phair’s eponymous album:

This album was released 2003 and only received the heavy radio and MTV rotation that it deserves around April or May 2004. The songs “Extraordinary” and “Why Can’t I ?” are used in famous movies, yet this album is unheard of in college-feminist-poseaur circles. You know, those types who don’t even know what the phrase “Three chords and the truth” means. Is this my favorite album of all time? Is the albums second track “Red Light Fever” an “Avril Killer”? Is “Red Light Fever” a song about Bones? To answer all those questions, give this album a spin, enlightenment never disappoints.

+ Bones’ review on Liz Phair’s eponymous album:

From the lady that brought us Exile In Guyville and Whipsmart (remember the song “Supernova”?). I’m showing my age here man. Liz Phair probably grew up worrying about the same things I do so I can’t help but relate to her songs. Most topics may be anathema to George W. Bush' America. But to me, great songs are like that. My favorite track here is “Red Light Fever”.Most guys aged 18 to 50 could relate to this song. It’s like looking into some Freudian mirror despite some smart ass 10 year old girl with a 219 IQ insistence to be my shrink. I may be a mensa type but I’m no “ubermensch”. I hope Vanessa doesn’t get this you’re-Tony Soprano-I’m-the-shrink-roleplay get over her head or spoil my listening enjoyment.

+ Vanessa’s review on Saturday Morning Cartoons Greatest Hits:

Bones grew up on this ritual of watching cartoons on Saturday mornings. From 8 to noon I reckon. Saturday Morning Cartoons, ain’t this some Politically Correct Catholic ritual? Where would Bones be today without these “cartoons”? A leader for the Aryan Nation or Neo-Nazi local chapter, or Osama Bin Laden’s second hand man, the possibilities are endless. So here’s an album that peers into Bones’ childhood. The versions remade here are way cooler than the originals. Like what they call “Perfect Yesteryears” which is one of the most cognitive disconnect ideas of all time. All of the songs are great that it’s hard to pick just one. My top 3 favorites are Liz Phair’s version of the Banana Splits theme song. Next is the garage-band-a-riffic sounding remake of the Josie and the Pussycats theme by Tanya Donnely (of the band Belly, one of Bones’ faves from the 1990’s) and Juliana Hatfield (she looks like Bones’ baby sister)
And the Popeye the Sailorman theme by the band “face to face” which contains one of the most frighteningly realistic sounding drum sounds ever recorded. I would have shared this album with my dad if he was ever around to raise me or to my mom if she would give a damn about Star Trek or Nietzsche.

+ Bones’ review on Saturday Morning Cartoons Greatest Hits:

Whoa, this album inspired some strong emotions from Vanessa. I’ve started to enjoy listening to this album maybe a year before she was born. After listening to this great album, watching those classic cartoons will never be the same again. This album passed my sound quality checklist with flying colors. Isn’t it ironic that most of the artists featured here have made albums of less than pristine sound quality.

+ Vanessa’s review on Piece of Mind:

Ahh, Iron Maiden. Why is it that most excellent metal bands are affiliated with Satan? To me, Satanism like Christian Slave Morality is an ideological crutch, it hinders rather than aids creativity. But in this album, Iron Maiden concentrates more on intellectual escapism (isn’t most of their songs about this idea?). Songs about science fiction adventures or great battles of the past are presented here with great musicianship. The Trooper is a good song for warming up my fingers, whether I’m playing guitar or cello.

+ Bones’ review on Piece of Mind:

Some people will say that The Trooper is the only redeeming song on this album. I began to seriously listen to this album back in 1995 using a Super Bit Mapped CD reissue. Even back then, this album held it’s own compared to post-Nirvana-grunge-wannabes. Good guitar musicianship and good songwriting can be found here in abundance. This is probably the best metal album of the 20th Century.

+ Vanessa’s review on Nature Film:

Scrawl is one of those obscure bands that I’ve immediately fell in love with. The album is filled with songs that Avril Lavigne might write when she turns 30. All of the songs were written from a time when America was the most technologically, morally, and socially advanced country in the world. Sadly the Clinton legacy hasn’t kept the course so to speak. My most favorite track here is “11:59(It’s January)”. I always thought this song is about the Y2K Bug, no, it’s one of those song that mirror Bones’ life.

+ Bones’ review on Nature Film:

Looks like someone want’s to play shrink as opposed to playing doctor. F.Y.I. , this country has a low opinion on shrinks. Like The Inquisition’s opinion on witches/feminists.

I first heard Scrawl back in 1993 from a radio program on NU107 called Not Radio. Despite numerous (?) media exposure and a Guitar World magazine interview, Scrawl seemed to have been denied the fame that they really deserved. In today’s George W. Bush’ America where even rational thought is considered a “left-leaning” view, the ideas presented in this album may seem anathema, even subversive. Is this album a beautiful swan song to a post-politically-apocalyptic America or a beautiful art form for it’s own sake? Only a good listen through can answer that. But I’ll promise you it would be one hell of a good listen.

+ Vanessa’s review on If I Where A Carpenter:

I’ve always thought that The Carpenters are my grandparent’s musical influence since they grew up listening to them. After listening to this grunge-ified ,garage band-ified versions of those songs, I’m sold. This is my favorite alt-rock albums of all time. Check out the Johnette Napolitano and Marc Moreland rework on the classic “Hurting Each Other” with its orchestral Les Paul and Marshall wall of sound.

+ Bones’ review on If I Where A Carpenter:

This is one of those very rare 1990’s alternative/grunge rock albums where the guitar playing musicianship is on par with the best heavy metal bands of the 1980’s. For some the albums musical aesthetic may be a not so easily acquired taste but it works for me.

+ Vanessa’s review on Rust in Peace:

The album’s title is about a utopian future where our stockpiled nuclear weapons lay idle. Megadeth is one of those bands pigeonholed for Satanism, thus leading me to ask “Why are those bands that are labeled Satanic are always very artistic?”. This is a guitar player’s dream album. I loved playing the guitar parts on the song “Tornado of Souls”. It provides a good workout routine for my fingers. Lately I made a bet with Bones that I’ll wear my ass as a hat if Avril Lavigne does what Dave Mustaine did on Tornado of Souls (i.e. great guitar playing) before she turns 30. Which leads me to wonder why bands today don’t do guitar playing like the one found on this album anymore?

+ Bones’ review on Rust in Peace:

Why is it that most artists, like painters and musicians, who are addicted to heroin are extremely talented? There’s one catch though, heroin addicts are extremely difficult to work with. As a certain MTV / VH1 documentary made 5 years ago and just shown recently in our local MTV channel, documents Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine’s struggle with heroin. He missed important sessions and cancelled some important performance dates almost cost this band’s career. How much did this addiction contribute to his talent may be a loaded question at best, and always open to debate. But who am I to argue with a good work of art. Although I prefer “Cryptic Writings” as the best Megadeth album, one of my all time favorite songs is “Tornado of Souls” on their Rust in Peace album.

That concludes our review of Vanessa’s top 10 albums. Next time we’ll examine Bones’ favorites, some Islamic Devotional Music picks, and an exploration of Southern Baptist music like Sonny Treadway’s Jesus Will Fix It, a form of Christian Gospel music that we like. See ya next time.


Nancy said...

Avril Lavigne ruined punk rock! She should check porn as a career choice.

Vanessa said...

To anyone concerned, this blog is neither pro-or anti- Avril Lavigne. We just tell it like it is. As I read of late on Delbert McClinton's appreciation on Avril Lavigne's talent as a singer/songwriter, I can say that theres some truth to this. I say "some truth" because I don't know whether Delbert McClinton likes Lunachicks or not. But I sure like Delbert McClinton's performance in "Saturday Night Live" back in 1976 or was it 1977, I saw the re- run more than two years ago.

Sarah said...

My favorite Scrawl song is "For Your Sister." I don't know much about the band, does the song reflect the band's individual personalities?

Letiche said...

My hubby used to work as a UN peacekeeper in Banja Luca Bosnia-Herzegovina. The underaged prostitutes who worked there look and dress like Avril Lavigne! Is this part of her Warchild publicity stunt?

Adolf said...

You should check out this punk band that my "not so little girl" is currently listening to called "Lunachicks". Their style is a seamless blend of punk, Broadway show tunes, and A-level heavy metal axe work like Joe Satriani meets The Sex Pistols.

Nancy said...

Have you heard of Iron Maiden's vocalist i.e. Bruce Dickinson's solo album titled "Accident of Birth"? To me, it's the best Iron Maiden album since "Number of the Beast" of "Piece of Mind".