Tuesday, 23 December 2014

No.13 Post-Grunge Pat part 2: Are Nickel Back?

Following somewhat of a litany in the last post, I will try to keep this one a bit shorter.

Disregarding all cliches, Nickelback are the band that the world loves to hate. So far disinclined to the Canadian outfit's rock inspired, simplistic sound is one man (incidentally with the same pun library as me) that he set up an online petition to ban them from playing in the capital. Obviously it had to be entitled "Don't Let Nickel Back"; who would pass up an opportunity like that? The English will petition for anything won't we? Despite this, Nickelback have faced similar opposition in the past across the Atlantic but this is possibly due to America's underlying dislike for foreigners. Certainly not all people share this cynicism as the band have sold over 50 million records worldwide, with How You Remind Me voted the best rock song of the 2000s and Rock Star the first song by a Canadian band to be used on a DFS advert.
     But those were the old days, where a rock band as prestigious as Nickelback could churn out record after almost identical record yet their adoring fans would still quite happily scream for more as they tattooed Chad Kroeger's face onto each cheek. And no, not the ones on their faces. The more successful the band became, the more formulaic their albums have been: a more traditional grunge opener, pop inspired follow-up and the third, a gruffly soothing ballad. The latest album No Fixed Address, too, at first appears to show this same trend.
Despite the criticism the band constantly face for this reason, it has proven a successful formula and a formula they look unlikely to stray from. It cannot be argued that the so nicknamed 'Four Chords Kroeger' is disappointing the fans; they lap it up with unfaltering loyalty. After all, stick to what know and where can you go wrong? That said, they have really pushed the boat out in some areas here including a funk song in She Keeps Me Up and a rap song with Got Me Runnin' Round. A RAP SONG! THAT CAN'T BE RIGHT??? Indeed it can, and whats more it features the man behind the stealing of other people's songs, sampling them and saying "Bruh" over the top: Flo Rida. Chad even lays down some bars himself for goodness sake... mental. There is of course the standard ballad in Satellite and that generically unique, unquestionably Nickelback sound in The Hammer's Coming Down complete with powerful vocals and that weird, electronic echoey voice thing during the verses. 
Overall, this is a thoroughly optimistic album which if anything shows that Nickelback's style is perhaps finally blooming  like a shaggy haired butterfly and surprise even the most stone-faced of critics in the future. Who knows, we may have just witnessed the emergence of the front man's rap alter ego. I quite like Chaddy Bang, Nickelbacklemore or Ice Kroeg. Either way, the future looks bright for the band and it's safe to say I won't be signing any petitions in the near future.

To hear these songs, albums from the other posts and other music which I find, follow my blog on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/user/w-avery/playlist/4CAps4jqmlBK7LPOPFgi3T

Thursday, 20 November 2014

No.12: Post-Grunge Pat- Seething Seether

From the genre that brought us Nirvana, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam comes another complicatedly titled yet vaguely similar sounding sub-genre: this is post-grunge.

Beards, long hair, grinding guitar and guttural vocals. Basically everything you need to form a fairly comprehensive post-grunge band. Only this is the somewhat well-to-do, white-collar son of its much more outspoken, alcoholic and facially hairy father: traditional grunge. While grunge would go out every night swathed in greasy t-shirts and aggressive attitudes to get wasted, post-grunge tends to limit this to weekends. With an eye on the mortgage, it keeps clean throughout the business week, channeling frustrations into squash and spinning class. The original word was actually coined in the mid 1980s by some bright spark of a journalist for NME who, in true onomatopoeic fashion "wrote what he heard".
     But it was not until at least a decade later when Nirvana in particular rose to popularity, that grunge really found its feet as a genre. Just as the aforementioned groups rapidly commercialized and effectively grew 'Grunge' as a genre in the mid 90s, it could be said that just as quickly it met a tragic and untimely demise along with Kurt Cobain on April the 5th, 1994. But the Rock and Roll Hall-Of-Famer had left a staggering legacy in his wake. A year after Cobain's death, a new genre had emerged with Dave Grohl's Foo Fighters paving the way for what is now one of the biggest musical movements of the late 1990s.
       This new and exciting style of music emulated the heavy distorted guitars, husky vocals and facial decoration from grunge but combined this with elements of other genres like alternative metal and hard rock. The product: a much more anthemic, radio-friendly sound which had great commercial success. Drawing much more adoration from the public, the bands brought the same attitude and political influences but with simpler rhythms and less notorious drug habits. The band names all have connotations of adolescent depression (Theory Of A Dead Man), dark things (Black Stone Cherry) dirty things (Puddle Of Mudd, Staind) and .... Shrubbery? (Bush).

And then there is Seether, which sounds vaguely sharp and at the same time uncontrollably angry but without explicitly saying either. Formed in Pretoria;1999, Seether are probably the only South African rock band I've ever heard of but nevertheless have all the elements to form a particularly convincing post grunge band. This includes a good set of beards which we now know are a vital asset to any aspiring musician in this genre.
     Their album Words As Weapons was released in June of this year (2014 for those of you without a calendar). The record, I think, encapsulates Seether in terms of their music and artistic concepts. There still features the well rounded yet on the whole accessibly gruff vocals of Shaun Morgan which dominate the songs over the instrumentals themselves. However it is missing the more delicate side (yes it is hard to believe that they have one) seen in earlier songs like Broken with the closest thing here being Save Today and Crash which almost predictably are some of the best in the album. The large quantity of more recognizably post-grunge songs in the middle of the album tend to fade into one long blur of medicated frustration. However, the album overall is held up by Same Damn Life and Words As Weapons which is undoubtedly the best track. I think these contain the perfect balance between attitude and radio-friendliness which is characteristic of the genre. However, for me, a simpler, stripped back, dare I say it emotional song is missing. Despite the fact that from the above picture, the trio resembles a group of hardened truck drivers crossed with pirates, perfectly willing to start swinging after a few beers, they have a gentler side. This would have been a significant improvement for me. Overall, some great individual songs but weak on the whole. This if anything reflects the genre: fantastic at its best but a few beers in it starts to get messy.

Note: This is part of a 2-part post-grunge review which will also cover Nickleback's No Fixed Address. And yes that two will have a hastily thought, obscure pun for a title as well.

To hear these songs, albums from the other posts and other music which I find, follow my blog on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/user/w-avery/playlist/4CAps4jqmlBK7LPOPFgi3T

Friday, 12 September 2014

Reading Festival 2014

The festival season slams reluctantly to a close once again leaving summer memories, fantastic displays of live music and a sea of discarded beer cans in its wake. Imminently, the white collar, early rising, bitterly cold 9 to 5 monotony of winter lounges itself out before us as far as the eye can see, drawing ever closer. While we trudge back into daily routines, festival companies must trawl through the battlefield where the previously unblemished rows of tents stood expectantly for the weekend ahead. Now, the only tents left behind are those too broken, too burnt or too stained by urine to be of any further use to anyone. The clean-up teams will find discarded beer crates, food packaging and a worrying amount of human excrement in their year-long voyage through hell so it can break loose once again next year. As depressing as it is that its over, I am running down a list of my personal favorite acts performing at the Reading main stage this year in this installment to enjoy a final brief moment of summer before the bastard Jack Frost yet again returns to kick my shins into winter once more. Let's whack out a stereotypical "Top 5" format shall we? I'll even do it in descending order to build tension.

5. Queens Of the Stone Age
    Headlining the renowned Reading festival for the first time in their illustrious 18-year career, the rock veterans put on an excellent 16-song spectacle to really kick start the weekend with a set featuring favorites such as 'No One Knows' alongside newer releases like 'I Sat By The Ocean'. The almost sickeningly cool Josh Homme lead a laser packed, guitar-solo-jammed performance for music fans of any age to enjoy.
4. You Me At 6
     While the main stage tended to be dominated by American bands on the Sunday, the Surrey quintet flew the flag as it were for British post-hardcore rock music... I'm sure there more obscure flags to fly. Nevertheless, You Me At 6 put on an engaging show and the energetic Josh Franceschi whizzed around the stage urgin crowd surfing and mosh pits. While the more elite fans in the audience were disappointed at the lack of older songs like No one does it better in a Cavalier Youth dominated set, a major highlight was the cameo appearance of All Time Low's Alex Gaskarth to perform the bridge and final chorus of Fresh Start Fever to an eruption of surprised excitement. A girl in front of me genuinely burst into tears of hysterical joy upon his arrival. She must have been lost in stereo (if you can find a more obscure pun than that I'll be impressed).
3. Arctic Monkeys
     It was the first time headlining main stage at Reading for the Sheffield based outfit, but that certainly didn't seem to faze the enigmatic Alex Turner as The Arctic Monkeys played an incredible 20-song, career- spanning set list. Now a national icon, the band indulged in their huge fan base, as the crowd effortlessly (and tunelessly for that matter) belted out every word of I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor and Arabella as casually as if they were consecutive tracks on an album.This by far generated the largest of the week end's crowds as over 40 thousand people strained anxiously on tip-toes, jostling to await the encore of R U Mine. 

2. Blink 182
     Now, huge waves of  bias cloud my actual judgement of the performance as one of my favourite all time bands took to the main stage in spectacular style on the jubilant Sunday evening. Not even a 6 hour- wait could deter me from getting to the front to watch the Californian trio smash their name of the long awaited list of bands I hadn't seen live. Not even a rib-crushing scrum of sweaty bodies packed so tightly it was nearly impossible to raise your arms. Nor  the destruction of my shoes and phone, victims to the maelstrom of people. When the intro to Feeling This lit up the stage, I was off my cramp-ridden feet. It was predominantly old songs from the veterans of punk rock and the forefathers of all modern hardcore and post-hardcore groups of today pleasing their huge British fan base. Songs like I Miss You and Always were met with raucous, high pitched screams from a worrying number of men, enough to cover up Tom Delonge's ropey vocals. This did not hinder their performance as Dammit (featuring an extended drum solo from Travis Barker) brought the weekend to a reluctant close. with the colossal "Flaming Fuck" casting a yellow light over the crowd. Its safe to say we all departed fondly.
1. A Day To Remeber
     Perhaps an unlikely favorite in comparison to the wealth of unbelievable artists at the festival let alone the list preceding it here: a moderately famous hard-core punk band from Ocala; Florida playing at one of the UK's oldest and most prestigious music festivals in a grey afternoon slot. Doesn't sound much to get excited for. Fortunately I knew beforehand that it would certainly be no bland encounter. Among the more loyal fan base at the front, a huge surge of bodies hurled themselves into one another in all directions as the set was kicked off with The Downfall Of Us All and the deterioration of my ribs began. They were bruised in Right Back At It Again, cracked  after All Signs Point To Lauderdale and virtually disintegrated by the time Sometimes You're The Hammer, Sometimes You're The Nail drew to a crashing crescendo. Nobody seems to pause and think "Why are we doing this? Just running into each other in a circle, elbows flying, teeth bared. I came here to watch my favourite band and now I've lost my shoes, I'm covered in sweat and dust and I'm just gonna stand here at the side and watch the rest.". Even if anyone'd had that thought, they couldn't have exercised it as some idiot aggressively shoves you back into the chaos. It all forms part of the experience. Despite this, ADTR played a perfect set from my perspective, with songs spanning every album and causing further chaos as Jeremy Mckinnon clambered into a "Zorb ball" tumbling around the heads of the crowd all the while performing Homesick. As the performance slammed to a finale, I had just enough energy to produce one final cheer. We'd survived, stinky, but in roughly one piece and just witnessed one of the best live punk bands around.

So now while you return to another tedious week of school or work, you should remember that weekend. No more public urination (or consumption, but that's another story), no more vodka in water bottles, and no more staple diets of biscuits and chips. Not at least until next year...

To hear these songs, albums from the other posts and other music which I find, follow my blog on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/user/w-avery/playlist/4CAps4jqmlBK7LPOPFgi3T

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

No.11 Charlie Simpson: Wait Isn't He That Guy From...

A successful musician may argue that the fame attached to a piece of work is a hindrance to their career ('my gift is my curse' and all that) for the rest of us to scoff at into our luke-warm tea. If we're being honest that's the best curse you could possibly wish for, to produce something which makes you a household name and gives you enough money to buy a mansion in a tropical country and stay constantly high for the best part of a decade. That's just a hypothetical... Anyway, the problem lies for any aspiring artist, to consistently produce music of the same standard and popularity, thus avoiding one-hit wonder status. Only the most influential bands or artists are able to achieve this and remain in memory for a longer amount of time. By contrast, the music industry is littered with the corpses of those acts who cannot sustain the pace and intensity required for lasting stardom and producers simply consign them to an eternal madness of hearing that one song on a loop; whoever falls behind is left behind. Actually that might be from Pirates Of The Caribbean but the message is still there. Just ask Iyaz, Daniel Merriweather and those blokes who did Who Let The Dogs Out.

I'm sure that this is a title Charlie Simpson has been keen to avoid and has been running away from for nearly 10 years since the breakup of Busted in 2005. Most of you reading this will have been thinking 'Charlie who' followed by a prolonged 'Oh yeah' after the Busted reference. While we will not dwell on the band, they were certainly no one hit wonder delivering 5 chart topping singles at their peak. Since the fission of the band, Simpson was the front man of post-hardcore rock band Fightstar before the release of his solo albums, Young Pilgrim and Long Road Home, the latter of which was released just last week. Young Pilgrim peaked at 4 on the UK charts and, while it may not be as famous or highly regarded than he was used to, it is certainly an album deserving of praise.

Long Road Home, I feel, surpasses this even in terms of its songwriting flair and overall, more quality sound. That said, for me there is perhaps the lack of that standout song, the rank of which lay with Cemetery in the previous record. Haunted and Blood are my personal favorites, with the impeccable harmonies and easy listening quality. Thus, this record especially is much more genuine and heartfelt than the synthetic, electronic nature which rocketed Busted to stardom. I feel that through Haunted, Simpson clearly expresses a far greater integrity and subtle creative musical skill shown by his ex-band members. While McBusted (which sounds like if McDonald's answer to a crime drama and is in fact a heap of fading pop stars shouting over each other clutching at the straws of past successes) Simpson is making his own way as a musician at the cost of much popularity and abuse on twitter. You're doing just fine mate.

To hear these songs, albums from the other posts and other music which I find, follow my blog on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/user/w-avery/playlist/4CAps4jqmlBK7LPOPFgi3T

Sunday, 13 July 2014

No.10: A Band To Remeber

Versatility is a key feature for any musician, sportsman or in any other kind of skilled occupation. No one wants to see a one trick pony since, while it may be a fair spectacle, I doubt it would play guitar with any degree of competence... no fingers you see. The most successful artists to date are able to perform with high versatility while remaining true to a specific genre throughout a career. Unless you're One Direction or 50 Seconds Of Summer that is, in which case you can churn out the same old bollocks again and again while your prepubescent female fan base let out high pitched squeals of almost orgasmic yet naive joy. But then again Harry Styles sits on a pile of money basking in his destruction of the music industry while I often have to sacrifice my lunch money to afford a return bus ticket from town...but you don't here me complaining. 

You wouldn't necessarily expect such versatility from an emo, post-hardcore rock band like the band in question here: A Day To Remember or to use the cringey yet time-saving acronym ADTR used by their several million fans. This band are perhaps unique in their ability to blend hardcore screamo with calm acoustic guitar and, at times, soft vocals in one record. Common Courtesy, their most recent release is a prime example of this. The ability to hear the ear-splitting screams of 'The whole world is against me so I'm gonna shout down a microphone and punch your nan' sort of emotion in Violence followed by a calming acoustic love song in I'm already gone is testament to that word versatility again. In addition to this, Common Coutesy features more of the traditional elements of rock and punk within songs including City Of Ocala and Life @ 11 with a sound vaguely reminiscent of the band's 90's teenage influences of Nirvana, Blink 182 and No Use For A Name. This puts A Day To Remember above the other similar bands who they rose to fame alongside including We Came As Romans and Silverstein since there is genuine vocal talent as well as musical and lyrical skill/originality. While the screamo sections of their songs often sound very similar and often need sifting through, the band are still at the top of their game with this independently released album; a staggering feature in itself.

So there you have it, for those of you who are after more easy listening songs, or who prefer your nans unthreatened, this band may not be for you but I strongly urge you to give them a try, at least with an acoustic version of one of their songs: http://youtu.be/9cHIi3h8aAo. Playing at Reading festival this August, they will hopefully live up to this album on the stage.

To hear these songs, albums from the other posts and other music which I find, follow my blog on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/user/w-avery/playlist/4CAps4jqmlBK7LPOPFgi3T

Monday, 7 July 2014

No.9 B.O.B: OK Fine, I'll Do A Rap Album

The aim of this blog is to publish a list on the everlasting infinity of the internet featuring what I believe to be the essential artists, albums and songs for any respected music collection. Obviously, there are various criteria that require assessment before selection for this list, one of them being relatablity (which is clearly not a recognised word but it fits here so don't start). This is a factor, therefore, which has prevented me from focusing on a hip-hop and/or rap artist. The stereotypical ideas and slang relating to the ghetto, getting 'stacks' and more notably getting b*****s proves too much for my British faintly middle-class mind to comprehend. It seems to me that rap, the most patriarchal of genres, and its many artists seem to obsess over getting things. What do they do once they have all of them? I presume they lock them all away in a room somewhere and just look at them. Maybe that's where Dr. Dre has been all this time between endorsing products and smoking cannabis.

Perhaps, this is why I deemed B.O.B (a pseudonym by Bobby Ray)'s  Strange Clouds fit for my list since his lyrics and subject matter of the album deviate from the generic concepts of the rap genre. Overall, the album is not entirely meaningful let alone insightful with songs dedicated to sunglasses and holidays but he expresses his awareness of the stereotypical nature of many rap songs as well as the shallowness of the music industry in songs such as So Hard To Breathe; this is certainly admirable. These lyrics are delivered fantastically and I would even go as far as to say Ray has 'good flow' if I use that term correctly. Obviously there is plenty of reference to 'riding the beat'  (which I deduce after much research is the skill and confidence of delivery) and some such but it wouldn't be a true rap album without it.
     Potentially more impressive is the music itself with a range of different instruments and styles from calm piano and guitar to more traditional drum and bass employed to affect the tempo and atmosphere created by each song. To further this, Ray is accompanied by a range of artists from Taylor Swift and Ryan Tedder of One Republic to Lil' Wayne and TI. This allows a wide variation in styles commonly missing from rap albums which is commendable.

So there we have it, maybe not the best for easy listening but certainly the talent is obvious despite the generic comments of it being 'talking with music' from bigoted old English blokes. Listen to this excellent remix of Bombs Away among others, until next time.

To hear these songs, albums from the other posts and other music which I find, follow my blog on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/user/w-avery/playlist/4CAps4jqmlBK7LPOPFgi3T