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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Earth-Shaking News!

Well okay, no, but after the first big regional quake since I was in high school, this Blog post kind of has to take note of it.

Anyway, this week marks the completion of all post-writing work on the manuscript for Oh Well, Whatever, Nevermind.

Now comes the real challenge: I've decided that unlike my more famous (and free) eBooks, The Unearthing and its follow-up Through Darkness and Stars, I intend to either release Oh Well, Whatever, Nevermind as a paid downloadable eBook or I'll be shopping it around for publication.

This means that my creative writing time is now absolutely rededicated to The Omniverse's third volume, The Aeons War. This is fun, because the story has been screaming at me for months now, but I've wanted to finish the push for Nevermind.

I must once again report feeling both overwhelmed and intimidated as I approach Nevermind's publication. See, being non-genre, I know the novel will be a little bit easier to sell. Likewise, we're just hitting the pop-culture phase where the 1990s Grunge scene will become retro and therefore back in style, so the novel, being set in the era, will be that much more marketable. Plus the mature content and adult situations rife through the book is sure to boost readership, as pervy readers abound.

So basically, I don't want to fuck up the publication of this one, like I did The Unearthing.

But I'm also completely unsure of myself or what to do next.

Bugger.

First, Let's Face The Music...

Okay...busy, busy...this will be the first of two posts today. If you can't guess from the title, this one's going to be a repost of the backlog of music reviews I did for CONFRONT Magazine.

The second update will entail writing news, relating to the completion of Oh Well, Whatever, Nevermind. The novel is good to go and I'll be talking about what's next.

But that's for the next post. For now, well, while we still have the chance, Let's face the music and dance:

I don’t usually review this many albums in one column, but I listened to a lot of music this past week; of it the four releases below are among the most noteworthy. Sit back and enjoy the read, and have fun if you decide to listen for yourself to these latest!

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Pete Tremblay and the Boozy Truth: Midtempo Madness

Indie darlings Pete Tremblay and the Boozy Truth have come out with a pretty interesting Indie-Folk-Rock album; 9 tracks of very hard to define music, heavy on old-school Folk Rock, intellectual and self-referential lyrics and Tremblay’s often snarky vocals combine to make an irreverent and entertaining disc.

“Grape (The LA Song)” and “Myself the Cop” are my favourites on the album; Tremblay almost sounds like protest rocker Tom Petty at some points on the album, if Cochrane was dissolved in solution with extract of impertinence from John McCrea of Cake.

All in all ‘Midtempo Madness’ is a refreshing burst of musical energy tempered by a rare lack of self-importance, well worth listening to, especially in an era dominated by supergroups and stars who take themselves entirely too seriously. Highly entertaining and refreshing, ‘Midtempo Madness’ is a good album to put on when you’re in the mood for something a little different and original.

Pete Tremblay and the Boozy Truth: Midtempo Madness
Blacktop
Steve’s Rating: 8/10

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Band of Horses: Infinite Arms

This was an album that I should have reviewed back when it dropped a couple of weeks ago; however it only finally landed in my folder last week. I immediately made up for lost time and gave it a listen. I was immediately in thrall.

There’s so many different elements at play on ‘Infinite Arms’ that it’s a veritable stew of styles and ideas. There’s two-part harmony vocals and anthemic Folk-Rock elements, strong Celtic Rock influences and an occasional soupcon of 60s Surfer and Psychedelic Rock and just a dash of Old-School Folk.

Outstanding on this album are the opener, “Factory”, “Blue Beard”, title track “Infinite Arms” and “NW Apartment”. These songs typify the sound on this album; quality standouts and addictive.

I’m assuming a technical flaw occurred with my version of the album; the track “For Annabelle” on my copy was overwritten by “NW Apartment”, and so obviously I was unable to listen to that track. Hopefully this error does not repeat itself on the commercial sales version of the ‘Infinite Arms’. In any event, even with that surprising bug, this is a wonderful musical discovery.

Band of Horses: Infinite Arms
Columbia
Steve’s Rating: 8/10

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Delta Spirit: History From Below

Just for the lead single, “Bushwick Blues” (which is pure, distilled Rock & Roll poetry), Delta Spirit’s sophomore album is worth the purchase price. After the slightly unsettling opener “911” flashed back to Black Tuesday in 2001, ‘History From Below’ establishes itself as not yet another post-9-11 protest album.

Thankfully the Rock music here is soulful and largely apolitical, though you are free to find whatever metaphor you wish within their brilliant and eloquent lyrics. “Salt in the Wound” is a mellow, twangy and contemplative North Country Rock ballad and easily the brightest flash of genius on the first half of the album. Now, let’s talk about the closer, “Ballad of Vitaly”: This 8 minute, 5 second track is epic genius which harkens back to the grand Folk Rock of Dylan’s youth, while bringing the music forward with modern touches and tricks.

Words cannot do this album justice; you should all get a copy and experience it for yourselves. In my opinion as the Views and Reviews guy, this is the best Rock album of 2010—if not simply the best album of 2010, altogether. Delta Spirit’s ‘History From Below’ has set the bar by which everything else I listen to this year will be judged.

Delta Spirit: History From Below
Rounder
Steve’s Rating: 10/10

Now normally I’d want to end my column on a high note, such as the review above. This week however, there is an elephant in the room that cannot be gotten rid of with one little pill:

Christina-Aguilera-Bionic-Album-Cover-400x400Christina Aguilera: Bionic

Wow; I am blown away. I can’t believe just how much class, grace and originality Christina Aguilera fails to show on ‘Bionic’, her latest album. I had actually been looking forward to reviewing this one; I’d enjoyed Aguilera’s progression and development as an artist over the course of her last couple of albums. Unfortunately with ‘Bionic’, Aguilera’s bollocksed things completely and spectacularly, as only she possibly could.

From the album cover, the lead single and music video for “Not Myself Tonight” and the overall musical style displayed on the album it is clear that Xtina is plagiarizing Lady GaGa in order to boost sales. But listening to the album, we discover that it’s not just GaGa that she is stealing from:

Madonna’s shtick is heavily mined, as heard on tracks “Glam” and “Sex for Breakfast”. Aguilera’s token Spanish-language-see-I-really-am-a-LaTINa track “Desnudate” pilfers unabashedly from Shakira’s body…umm…of work. “All I Need”, which is otherwise a very pretty love song from mother to child, is marred by being a total rip off of every Alicia Keys piano ballad ever. Even Aguilera’s former chief musical rival and mortal enemy Britney Spears is co-opted on “I Hate Boys”: Other than Aguilera’s distinctive vocals, this track could have come from Brit-Brit’s 2001 album, ‘Britney’.

But as cheap as it is of her to rip off her peers and betters, Aguilera’s worst offence with this album comes from its appalling crudeness. Her usual clumsy attempt at portraying herself as a sex-bomb and cheerleader for female sexuality falls flat, making her once again look more like a cheap slut than an empowering advocate of women’s sexual expression. If anything, she does more harm than good to the cause.

Take the song, “Woohoo” which is about the topic of cunnilingus. First, this one sounds almost exactly like “Milkshake” by Kelis—again with the plagiarism! Second, instead of doing something really erotic, sexy or seductive with the subject matter, Xtina treats us to lyrics such as: “All the boys think it’s cake / When they taste my (woohoo) / You don’t even need a plate / Just your face, ha (woohoo) / Licky-licky-yum-yum (woohoo) / What a great guy (woohoo)”

The crass vulgarity continues throughout the album: besides the gratuitous moaning, grunting and panting and tired references to lesbianism on “Not Myself Tonight”, Aguilera relies on the constant use of the word “Fuck” whenever any sex acts are described. In fact, she uses the words “Fuck” and “Shit” so much on ‘Bionic’ that one wonders if Jay and Silent Bob co-wrote the album. Half the album reminds me of how you might imagine a street walker with Tourrette’s Syndrome to sound, falling down a flight of stairs.

Aguilera also makes frequent graceless references to being wet, making herself wet, getting wet and how wet she gets, as well as how no one can touch her better than she can…I’m surprised she isn’t selling her used panties online; they can’t stink worse than this CD. And yes, I am aware of the irony of complaining about how vulgar Xtina is on ‘Bionic’ while being so vulgar while doing so.

The only song of any worth only shows up in the last third of the album: “Lift Me Up” is a truly beautiful, heartfelt ballad; marred by the fact that the flow of the album is completely killed in the final act by the pile up of one ballad after another after another, as if the producer couldn’t figure out where the hell else to put them all.

For all its faults however, what’s most offensive about ‘Bionic’ is that Aguilera’s loyal and easily-pleased critics and fan base are going to lap this one up. Licky-licky-yum-yum, people; spit it out – you don’t know where it’s been.

Christina Aguilera: Bionic
RCA
Steve’s Rating: 2/10

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Oasis: 1994-2009: Time Flies Deluxe Limited Edition

It is with great regret that I inform you of the last of some truly great music. Having made their break-up official, Oasis have released, in various formats, ‘Time Flies’, their best of / singles collection.

Yes, that’s right: I come out squarely on Team Gallagher. Say what you will about their douchey behavior, emulation of the Beatles (Still managing to sound better at it than the Beatles, IMHO),multiple fights and break-ups or their being the obvious inspiration for Charlie’s band Drive Shaft, on JJ Abram’s “L O S T”. I admit and acknowledge every last boorish thing about the Gallaghers is probably true.

That does not change the fact that they put out some of the best BritPop / BritAlt Rock of the last 15 years. They’ve won multiple awards and critical acclaim; every one of their albums has gone multi-platinum. Their music has retained a core sound and kept itself fresh – something few bands can claim. And now, they’re gone.

How can we be really, really, sure that this time they really, REALLY mean it? They’ve released ‘Time Flies’, that’s how. See, it is an immutable law of nature that when a band either goes on “hiatus” or breaks up, then releases a “Best Of” or “Greatest Hits” or “Singles” compilation, the breakup is likely either permanent, or for a minimum of three to five years. Obvious exceptions to the rule, such as the Who, also prove the corollary: The more often a band calls it quits and then reunites for “just one more” album and tour, the worse they will begin to suck over time.

The Gallagher Brothers' parting gift to the world is the aforementioned compilation. There’s going to be a few different formats out there; 3 CD, 5 CD, multi-disc vinyl, probably a stripped down el-cheapo CD version to come, as well. I had the good fortune to listen to the 3CD / 1DVD version. I did not watch or listen to the DVD; I don’t like music DVDs. The first two CDs comprise the whole of their singles discography, including some region-specific bonus tracks. The third CD is an iTunes Live album, from Oasis’ set at the 2009 iTunes Festival in London.

The singles collection on the first 2 CDs is a great listen; an annotated cliff notes through the history of Oasis’ music. The live CD is an excellent conclusion to the set, and a triumphant farewell from this iconic band.

Oasis: 1994 – 2009 Time Flies
Sony
Steve’s Rating: 10/10