Monday, February 15, 2010

"Darkness" Complete & Weekly Music Review

So a lot later than usual with this week's late in fact that it's technically next week!

But anyway...

Spent a very busy week working/compiling the eBook for Through Darkness and Stars, which I will launch by the end of the week - Just have to update a few things here or there, secure widgets & mass distribution, etc.

I also had some important work to do around the house, fixing up a special room for someone very special who will be very soon an "official" part of our lives...I can't wait!

So those of you who've read the first six chapters of the Darkness preview will very soon be able to sink your teeth into the full volume.

And now for our weekly music feature!

HIM: Screamworks Love in Theory and Practice

Seriously underwhelmed would be the two best words to describe my impression of the latest by Cock-Rock “Heartagram” band HIM. It’s all very generic sounding post-Emo Rock. There’s not much on ‘Screamworks’ that isn’t overtly formulaic with the standard Arena-Rockers, overly-produced and equalized music levels, verse, verse, chorus structure and predictable, angry lyrics and flair-heavy solos.

The whole thing just smacks of opportunistic commercialism, already out of touch with the new trends in Rock music. The songs are so interchangeable as to be nearly indistinguishable from one to the next, and it’s hard to find much good to say about this one; it really is nothing more than a Pop album for people who consume music instead of listening to it.

That’s not to say that the music isn’t capable performed or that Ville Valo’s vocals aren’t up to par. But when the music is as soullessly commercial and cynically mass-market-geared as this disc is, really, what the hell’s the point?

If you’re a fan of HIM, if you like Top-40 Pop Rock that you can listen to over and over again now (but in a year or two you’ll be embarrassed to even admit to owning) then ‘Screamworks Love in Theory and Practice’ is a good fit.

Those looking for something a little more substantial, something that will be one of Rock or even Pop music’s timeless classics, well, you’re shit out of luck.

HIM: Screamworks Love in Theory and Practice
Steve’s Rating: 5/10

Underground Realroad: Slave To The Game

Those who know me (Or who regularly read my column) know that I’m not very impressed by Hip-Hop. At least, not most of what passes for Rap and Hip-Hop these days. And, while no real fan of the genre per say, I do listen to Hip-Hop and Rap on occasion (My preference being for the older stuff, from the early-to-mid 1990s). So, though my opinion might not actually count for much, the truth is that Underground Realroad’s ‘Slave To The Game’ is easily the best Rap album I have listened to in 15 years.

Their sound is dynamically layered, using samples from R&B and Motown hits from the 60s and 70s, looped and repeated for hypnotic, surreal effect. The rhymes are solid, and manage to speak to subjects not related to the usual asinine glorification of thug life. This is urban poetry, hip-hop storytelling at its finest. The songs are atmospheric, the imagery of the lyrics powerful, vivid, anthemic. Songs like “Slave 2 Da Game” demand to be played loud and long.

I’m surprised that this album was released so early in the Winter; I’d have staged it for an early Spring release, simply because this album deserves to peak over the long, hot months and be used as a Summer Soundtrack for those hot days and sultry nights. To my ear, the album as a whole just evokes Montreal in the Summer.

Lyrically, many of the songs deliver messages of empowerment, cautionary stories and even tales of tribute. “Little Boy Street” is one such tale, about a homeless lyricist who lives for the songs he writes. Some of the tracks are just good trips, the Hip-Hop equivalent of Stoner Rock, just setting up some nice sounds to burn out to. Forced to pick out the best on this disc, I’d have to say “Slave 2 Da Game”, “The 101”, “Little Boy Street”, “U-R Always There”, and the trippy, cool, harsh and cautionary “N199@_Y_”.

The only song I can really do without is the closing track, a remix of an earlier track on the disc, “Can’t Stop”. It just seems repetitive when featured here, as opposed to if they’d merely have used it as a B-side on a single version of “Can’t Stop.” Except for that one tune, I daresay this album is as near to perfect as Rap gets

‘Slave To The Game’ distills the essentials of great Rap and Hip-Hop into a pure, concentrated form, one that should never be diluted and always taken at full strength. If there is any sanity in the world of music today, Underground Realroad will set the standard for Hip-Hop for years to come.

Underground Realroad: Slave To The Game
Steve’s Rating: 9.5/10