Tag Archives: rock

Nobuteru Maeda – Nobuteru Maeda & His Blues Friends

Nobuteru Maeda ‎– Nobuteru Maeda & His Blues Friends [Sony Records ‎– SRCL 2566]

A decent blues-rock album. I don’t know very much when it comes to popular music in Japan, so on my last visit I picked up handfuls of random CD’s out of the bargain bins at various shops. This one was in the pack, and has been a great listen. I like blues rock as it is, and this is a good record demonstrating a Japanese take on it. Although most of the titles here are in English, don’t be fooled as the songs are all in Japanese. The instrumentation is good too, providing a very laid back lounge mood to the album overall. However at points it can feel quite dated, which does bring the rating down for me just slightly.

Various – Loud Rocks Advance Sampler

Various ‎– Loud Rocks Advance Sampler [Loud Records / Columbia ‎– RPROCD 4435]

This album is a pure product of its time. I don’t think such a record could ever really exist at any other point in time in music history. Growing up through this period, and feeling strangely nostalgic for all things from the turn of the millennia I find this record very interesting. Yet although interesting, in the aspect of how it came to be, I do not find it in any way enjoyable. I love hip-hop from this era, the emergence and popularity of hardcore hip-hop. I love metal from this era, nu-metal and funk metal taking the throne of the heavy metal scene. Yet when some record execs at Columbia decided to actually combine the two, I feel that it sounded better in the board meeting than it actually does in the flesh.

It feels like I am listening to a constant loop of early 2000’s action movie trailer soundtracks.

Fall Out Boy – Believers Never Die – Greatest Hits

Fall Out Boy ‎– Believers Never Die – Greatest Hits [Mercury Music Group / Decaydance / Fueled By Ramen ‎– 2725518]

A very strong compilation for seasonal fans of Fall Out Boy like myself. I remember Fall Out Boy’s Sugar, We’re Goin Down was one of the first songs I ever had on my new 512MB MP3 player, just at the point where I had moved secondary (high) schools. Fall Out Boy are very similar to bands like Linkin Park in being the sound of a generation, my generation. Pop punk and emo-pop was the soundtrack to those formative years where we are experiencing new feelings and thoughts, leaving our childhood behind to venture into more adult activities.

Fall Out Boy are one of the most famous bands from this era that almost any 20-something knows who they are and a few of their hit songs. At the time FOB were hot news I did try and indulge myself in their albums but I found myself only really listening to the same hit songs. Well luckily for me they released a greatest hits album in 2009, which allowed me to keep high quality copies of my favourite tracks without having to have 4 albums in my collection that I only enjoyed 30% of.

I can only really comment on the first ~60% of this album as these are the only tracks that interest me, by the point FOB had released 2008’s Fall Out Boy – Folie À Deux, edgy teenager me had moved past listening to FOB and began fixating on heavier content (both in sound and content). But I will never forget the memories that are attached to the hits from 2004-2007, and so this album is in my opinion 100% worth it for the nostalgia trip alone.

A great compilation for a part-time fan of Fall Out Boy, but offers nothing special for hardcore fans.

Various – Crystal Top Music Presents

Various ‎– Crystal Top Music Presents [CrystalTop Music ‎– CTM-CD004]

I love compilations such as these. These are the compilations I strive to find in dusty record stores, damp charity shops and at the bottom of destroyed cardboard boxes at car boots. Compilations like these that are so varied, spanning various genres, filled with new music that you’ve likely never heard of before, introducing you and your friends to new acts and performers you’d have otherwise missed.

Sadly I didn’t find this compilation at a record store, nor charity shop or car boot – instead I had to resort to ordering it online.

Ok give me my due, this was the first compilation like this that I ended up owning. Without this release I would have never guessed such varied compilations existed in the world, as prior my only exposure to compilations were the more common mainstream pop offerings such as NOW and Smash Hits.

Of course as is always the case releases special as this have a story behind them. I cast my mind back almost 10 years ago now, I was old enough to watch “grown-up” American drama’s like LOST and Prison Break with my mother that were aired on satellite television. She had found out about a new show, Hidden Palms. I loved this show, I don’t know why in hindsight it doesn’t hold up that well in comparison to the US blockbuster series I would come to watch in the decade to come, but more than the show I loved two other things. The first was the scene of Amber Heard running through a field of sprinklers in a white dress, and the second was the theme song, “Blind” by Mega Bass.

Now the issue with this theme song was it was a real pain the ass to locate on the internet, not because it was 2007/8 internet or because I was 14 and unable to use Google properly. No because unfortunately the band decided on an extremely generic name for themselves, which would bring up numerous happy hardcore acts instead. I searched on and off for a while to find this track, at the time I used to locate most of my music on the wonderful Limewire/Kazaa Gold software. With endless supply of “free” music I began to develop a hunger for new and different music, and so I began using iTunes to discover a lot of new music. It was here that I managed to locate this track, but it only ever appeared on this compilation. I was a kid, of course I had no money to pay the £0.99 for the track definitely not in the dreaded .m4a format that did not work with my Creative MP3 player. So I kept it in the back of my mind where this track appeared, never forgetting.

Fast forward a few years to 2010, at this time I had a small job which meant MONEY! What did I spend my money on? MUSIC! Mostly CD’s at the time, a few records as I was just getting into that. It got to the point that instead of buying bus fare which could speed up my 2 mile walk to town by a good hour, I would prefer to save that money for buying music. Smart. Anyway, I knew I would not find this record in any HMV in the UK, nor in any charity shop or at any car boot. So I began to look online, I don’t recall it taking long to find it on Amazon UK and I was amazed. Gobsmacked, only £3! (I was easily surprised back then, fearing that such a small fry-record release from the far away lands of the United States would cost a bomb in jolly ol’ Britain)

So I still have this CD in my collection, I don’t think I will ever get rid of it. It is a great compilation in my opinion, but it is not perfect. There are a few dud tracks but there are some great entries on here. Remember I purchased this CD for ONE track only, so who knew what I would think of the other 10.

Here are my favourites:

Momma’s Boy, Elizabeth & The Catapult
At the time of getting this CD I was entering my sour period in my music tastes, preferring more “mature” music that still had the edge of sarcasm, frustration and anger of the pop-punk and emo music I had been gorging myself on years prior. A long way off from discovering the joys of Fiona Apple or the Eels, I discovered this track. As the first track I listened to this before the track I had purchased it for and wow, I loved LOVED it. I loved Liz’s passive-aggressive, almost mean spirited lyrics that just came as nasty stabs at the protagonist in the song. I loved how I found an “angry” song which did not involve screaming, thrashing guitars and fast paced drums – no this song has a beautiful female vocalist and an upbeat melody that contrasts against the lyrical content. Fantastic, this was evolution for me.

Blind, Mega Bass
If it wasn’t for this track, if it wasn’t for Hidden Palms, if it wasn’t for US TV, if it wasn’t for Amber Heard – I would have never even picked this release up, and maybe never had bought another compilation/sampler ever. I love this track, its a shame that the band have never (according to Discogs) put out anything else but this track (band member and vocalist Aiden Hawken had another track on this release, and his own solo career). In my mind this song is late 2000’s Californian coast music, light, airy, streaks of electronica but nothing overpowering – if I had to classify it it would most probably slip somewhere between trip-hop and the vague Indie Electronic genre.

Foreign Country, Christina Courtin’s Running Kicks
Although I didn’t take to this track as much as I did the first track on this release, Foreign Country soon became a favourite of mine. I would say this track is what sent me down a path of finding female lead acts with an unusual vocal style leading me to acts such as Soko (5). Also I fell in love with the line, “If I was a foreign country – would you come visit me?”

Late Night With Christina, Aidan Hawken
Ok maybe I took to this song so quickly because Aiden is the vocalist of the track that brought me to this release in the first place. But I really enjoyed this light, easy going folk indie/americana track and it worked well to fuel my new found passion in those genres. Although this is track is not one of my favourites from Aiden in himself, I have included it in this highlights list as it did bring me to his work.

Tobaco Y Ron, Luz Mob
I am still terrible with my knowledge when it comes to Latin music. But I do really, really enjoy this track. It’s just a fun, summery track that works well in the mixing pot that is this sampler. There are other Latin tracks on this album but this is always the one that stands out.

This compilation to me is summer. I don’t know if there was a theme indented for this compilation or not, but to me it will always symbolise an American summer – something I would not experience until a good 5 years later. This compilation may not to be to everyones taste, and sadly it appears that CrystalTop Music did not do as well as hoped but like I have explained in this short review this compilation has a special meaning to me, making it pretty much invaluable to me.

Oasis – Wonderwall

Oasis – Wonderwall [Creation Records ‎– CRESCD 215]

Let’s not be stupid here. This is a fantastic song. Regardless of what genre, decade, period, scene or culture it stood for, it’s just a near perfect song. How do I know this? Everyone knows this song. Everyone.

The joke is that when someone is taking requests for songs everyone shouts “PLAY WONDERWALL!” or that a new amateur busker will confidently walk up to the mic and say “Here’s Wonderwall”. It’s a great joke, but it only works because people are so familiar with the song. It’s universal appeal and its simplicity only add towards how valuable this song is to modern music history.

A fine point in British Rock music for sure.

Not only do you get this classic track, Creation are nice enough to give us three additional tracks including the wonderful The Masterplan.

CAKE – Fashion Nugget

This review has since been republished on CritiqueBrainz.

I like this album, why – well let me try and summarize why. This isn’t my entry point to CAKE, instead that was 2001’s Comfort Eagle – which features maybe their most recognised work “Short Skirt/Long Jacket”. How I came to this album was from hearing the track “Friend is a Four Letter Word” from the MTV animated show Daria. I was born in 94, so I never managed to enjoy the counterculture that blossomed during the decade – however like many who are my age we all have this strange connection to the music, art, tv and film that was being released at the time we were tiny organisms inside our mothers wombs or playing with blocks at pre-school. Maybe there was something in the water?

I watched Daria at the emotionally turbulent time of being 18 years old, and found common ground with the lead characters sarcastic and almost morose outlook on the world and adult life. So much so that when “Friend is a Four Letter Word” finished the episode “Dye! Dye! My Darling”* I was left scrambling to find out what this track was, it just struck something with me and I listened to this track on-repeat for weeks.

Recently I have been making effort to pick out albums where I know only one/two tracks and then see if they would fit into my collection. About two weeks ago I listened to Fashion Nugget in full for the first time, and I liked it – but not as much as Comfort Eagle. Looking online there are quite a few people giving their opinions on this album, I guess CAKE are one of those bands who are just popular enough that people “know” them but they aren’t known by everyone. The album has some hidden greats, which have that fantastic pop-jazz-rock fusion sound with McCrea’s almost strained, pained vocals and then there are some tracks that are just too obtuse to enjoy.

Great tracks include the opening track “Frank Sinatra” to which the lyrics are nearly nonsensical but speaks with a tone of bleakness that feels all too familiar for many people transitioning from child to adult. Followed by “The Distance” which paces confidentially along for its three minute run-time explaining that feeling of empowerment many young men experience when courting a stranger. This song oozes so much confidence it almost feels arrogant, but never fully tips over. Coming together to form a trinity of good tracks, in position 3 is my favourite track “Friend is a Four Letter Word” a love song that is so pure in emotion it might just be one of my favourite love songs ever made. Everyone’s experienced the emotions that are being played out in this song, the feeling of realising how you truly feel about someone who only considers you as a friend. What I find great about this track is it never mentions what the four letter word is – is it love? Or it could even be hate? Moving past this high point we come to “Open Book”, the first track on the album which just didn’t flow well for me. The chorus is great, but with the double-tracked lines and one too many words, it stumbles, falls flat and just feels awkward. “Daria” is set at position 5 (I wonder if they used so many tracks from this album in the original broadcast of Daria because of this track?) which picks up the slack a little from track 4. It features that unique CAKE lyricism of what sounds like the cliqué poetry so many of us tried our hands at while being teenagers – something I personally enjoy.

“Race Car Ya-Yas” is one of the tracks I mentioned earlier in this review – something that is just a little bit too obscure for me to find any enjoyment in at all. I normally love songs that speak out about trying to break the mould but this track goes nowhere and simply repeats the same nonsense over and over – luckily it’s short. Covers are a dice roll for me, and it usually depends on how treasured the original is to me. Now I am no Gloria Gaynor fan, but I am very familiar of the original “I Will Survive”. I like this cover, I understand that this is some people’s favourite track on the album – but for me I simply find it achieving a passing grade. I enjoy the angst and misery found in what is often considered an empowering song, giving it the song just that added bit of attitude. One of my passions and hobbies aside from writing these long reviews are cars – and all aspects of car culture, so with this I can appreciate a good car song. Is “Stickshifts and Safetybelts” one of these tracks, er not really. Like it has a fun country feel, and I enjoy some of the comparisons drawn (the track simply explains how even though McCrea is not the fittest, sportiest guy he is very affectionate and has that wholesome feel of a classic car which is missing in modern sports cars). I can’t place what I don’t like about this track, but again it’s a passing grade. “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps” is a great track about having to deal with someone indecisive, and the frustrations it can cause when trying to gauge if a relationship is on the cards.

After passing the halfway mark on the album we reach another favourite song from the album, “It’s Coming Down”. I don’t know why I like this, it has almost (maybe worse?) lyrical content to “Race Car Ya-Yas” but I just love how it is a perfect soundtrack for those situations when you have upset the one you love, usually unknowingly. “Nugget” is the title track (?), but I just don’t jam with this song at all. Again, I am usually all for these “anthems” against the establishment but this just feels forced and maybe a bit too predictable – and the “shut the fuck up” in the chorus just doesn’t feel right for CAKE. Following this demonstration of immaturity, we get another lacking track “She’ll Come Back to Me”. Maybe it’s because of the person I am, and I simply don’t believe in waiting for something that may never be, but this track just edges over into almost pathetic territory in the world of “sad love songs”.

With two tracks left to cover, the album ends on two high notes for me. “Italian Leather Sofa” is another audience favourite, filled with great metaphors about McCrea’s frustrations with some attractive girl who apparently doesn’t care about McCrea’s personal attributes, instead preferring people with watches and italian leather sofa’s. The album ends on a somber note with “Sad Songs and Waltzes”, which to me is a great parody of those classic country songs from the 60s and 70s. Self-aware that the target audience of this album aren’t going to buy any country albums with sad songs and waltzes on it, CAKE have hidden this track at the end of an alternative rock album which some could argue reached its golden age in the 90s. Also I love how snarky this track is, that McCrea knows that no-one will play this song on the radio at the time of release, so all of the girls he sings about in his songs shouldn’t worry because he will never be a big star.

All in all, I enjoy this album for what it is. It will most probably stay with me in my collection forever, most notably as a landmark of my development as a person. I hope to share this with my own children at some point, and if my son has to deal with the same emotional obstacles that I have he may find resolve in these 14 tracks.

*Note, I somehow ended up watching a copy of this episode without the dreaded replaced music – thank god for that!