Gary Numan / Splinter [Songs From A Broken Mind]

Splinter (Songs from a Broken Mind)

Gary Anthony James Webb, better known professionally as Gary Numan (born 8 March 1958), is an English singer, songwriter, musician and record producer. Born in Hammersmith, London, he first entered the music industry as the lead singer of the new waveband Tubeway Army. After releasing two albums with the band, Numan released his debut solo album The Pleasure Principle in 1979. Most widely known for his chart-topping hits “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” and “Cars“, Numan achieved his peak of mainstream popularity in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but maintains a loyal cult following.

Numan, whose signature sound consists of heavy synthesizer hooks fed through guitar effects pedals, is considered a pioneer of commercial electronic music.

Splinter (Songs from a Broken Mind) is the twentieth studio album by English musician Gary Numan, released on 9 October 2013 by Mortal Records and Cooking Vinyl. The album debuted at number twenty on the UK Albums Chart on sales of 6,187 copies, becoming Numan’s highest-charting album since 1983’s Warriors.

The Analysis—-

I Am Dust—-The Numan of the new century has a very distinctive sound….and from the first strains of this release, you hear it loud and clear. What has never changed is the remarkable sonic yet disassociated vocal.There is a warmth in the music…but a frigid sound to the voice…..full of distaste…pain and loneliness….this is all here in your face. The music is intense….dark and driven by crashing Industrial sounds…but it still has a humanity to it all. This is remarkable.

Here In The Black—-Deep and full of the mechanical effects you would expect, this song opens up with a brilliant synth line that just makes me melt. There is very little that this man could do to make myself distance from him and his music. The vocal is delivered in a manic whisper accompanied by a sparse beat that is full of trademark references to disdain for God and belief. It is that huge synth line that emerges to propel the song that makes it so remarkable. This is just incredible….I love this man.

Everything Comes Down To This—-Without a doubt, my favorite track from this release. The song has a huge actual human element to it….it speaks of difficulties in life and relationships….that despite how famous you may be, life has real problems that will never cease to be. Numan practically begs to be understood and given another chance. He begs for love and understanding. The dissonant vocal makes it even more emotional…while the driving synth on the chorus makes you realize the urgency of the matter at hand.

The Calling—-With a slight higher pitch to  the main keyboard line that runs through the song, this is alas, not much happier. At times, it plays like a soundtrack to a very sad movie. These are personal tales of love…..the danger of losing it….and the battles to keep it. There are magical Industrial sounds throughout the track…keeping everything slightly uneven….as is life. This is remarkable.

Splinter—-Giving off a slight tribal synth line at the onset of the song, the deep hum of sound still lies underneath all of the effects. The keyboard generated female vocal is eerie and flowing and soon Numan enters. Espousing once again on God and his dis-belief…his sense of abandonment and his staunch inability to believe in anything but himself. This is stark….dark and naked…yet full of a remarkable warmth that sucks you in somehow. This is brilliant.

Lost—-Stark…..naked and heartbreaking. There is such a sadness here…it makes me want to know every aspect of this man’s personal life…to know where this pain comes from. The lonely piano that lays the basis for the track is so beautiful that you feel tears in the back of your eyes. The surprise huge explosion of noise towards the end makes you feel the emotion and the pain. This is masterful. Dreadfully sad….but so incredibly real.

Love Hurt Bleed—-Deep at the onset with a creaking synth line that builds and builds until it conjures up early NIN. Numan enters with a more jaunty vocal that is none the less a bit desolate. This track has an incredible pace to it. The ups and downs and the lighter synth lines are a nice break after a few songs of such a personal and dark nature. This is stellar…I can see the flashing strobes from his show in my minds eye….this incredible!

A Shadow Falls On Me—-A very odd higher pitch vocal ushers in this track that has never set well with me. The music is stark and bleak…matching the odd vocal. I don’t really care for this…but I can say the lyrics are real and intense…perhaps that was the purpose all along.

Where I Can Never Be—-Returning to a melody that is very familiar throughout this release, you are welcomed back into the deep somewhat depressed nature of this album. I feel such hurt and sadness listening to this….it is as if the pain is mine….that is true connectivity. This is incredibly real.

We’re The Unforgiven—-Deep but jaunty, with distorted vocal lines at the onset, this reminds me of early Industrial sounds like Nitzer Ebb. The effects give way to a grand sweep that dives back into darkness just as quickly. The one constant is the whine of the pleading vocal…that belies all feeling and makes everything human. Loss….love…need…..pure and simple.The track ends quite noisy and pleading…..just masterful!

Who Are You—-Jaunty and delivered with a driving synth line, again,,,song placement is everything. The vocal is delivered straight forward and without effect….letting you feel all the questions that Numan continually asks that un for seen being we worship. This is brilliant in delivery…..but also in the pace of the incredible synth line.

My Last Day—-Ending the release on a very somber and sedate tone, you can’t….no matter how hard you try….erase the sadness and the difficulties that this record exposed. Taking a man who is so adored and putting such a human face to him made me love him even more. This is a  spectacular album.

***** out of 5

 

 

Iron Maiden / The Book Of Souls

The Book of Souls

The Book of Souls is the sixteenth studio album by English heavy metal band Iron Maiden, released on 4 September 2015. It is the band’s first studio double album, and therefore also their longest to date, with a total length of 92 minutes. Its launch and supporting tour were delayed to allow vocalist Bruce Dickinson time to recover from the removal of a cancerous tumor in early 2015.

Produced by long-time Iron Maiden collaborator Kevin Shirley, The Book of Souls was recorded at Guillaume Tell Studios, Paris from September to December 2014, which they had previously used for 2000’s Brave New World. The band wrote and immediately recorded many tracks in the studio, resulting in a spontaneous live feel. The album’s first release, “Speed of Light“, was issued as a music video on 14 August, and simultaneously as a digital download and CD single exclusive to Best Buy. In addition to being their longest studio record, it also contains the band’s longest song, “Empire of the Clouds“, at 18 minutes in length, which was also issued as a single for Record Store Day on 16 April 2016. While not a concept album, references to the soul and mortality are prominent, realized in the Maya-themed cover artwork, created by Mark Wilkinson.

The Analysis—-

Disc One:

If Eternity Should Fail—-Coming out of the darkness with an eerie hum, Dickinson emerges with a lone vocal that adds to the slow build and atmosphere of the track. I’m sure everyone had baited breath wondering how the voice would sound after the cancer battle…but it sounds better than ever. It isn’t long before the Harris bass line brings the song to life….the vocal line huge and bringing mysticism and power to the track. With a damn catchy chorus, this is classic Maiden.

Speed Of Light—-With no huge introduction this track, what you are greeted with is a huge banshee scream from Bruce that is incredible in power and volume. The musical power is incredible….the energy level very high. The prominent bass line takes a bit of a backseat on this track…allowing for a more straight forward metal track. At times, Dickinson seems to strain…but have no doubt…next to Rob Halford…..one of the best Metal singers in history. The drums are excellent on this track…as well as the barrage of guitars. This just has a HUGE sound.

The Great Unknown—-A full  return to the heavy bass line of Steve Harris, Dickinson enters with his vocal….wrapping around your brain with symbolism and mysticism. The track takes a bit to open up….slowly building with typical fanfare and anticipation. Finally the proper song commences but does not seem quit as epic as promised. I like this….it is Maiden after all…but not quite as huge as promised.The guitars are really nice on this track though….the twin attack…actually triple attack…..sounds huge.

The Red And The Black—-Seemingly to build off the previous track, the bass line that greets you is almost acoustic and Spanish in sound…for the first 20 seconds! The the galloping Maiden sound propels the song forward at a nice speed and level of anticipation. The lead from Gers is fantastic….can you say ‘glory days’? This is classic Maiden….the sound and the mood takes me back to the earlier releases.

When The River Runs Deep—-Higher in instrumental tone and straight forward right off the bat, Dickinson delivers a stellar vocal that is without fail. The mood of the track shifts and takes shape as it progresses…there are some nice double track vocals which are rare on their recordings. The ‘chorus’ has a musical downshift sound to it that makes the entire thing play a bit odd to me…but it is a welcome break…something different to provide variety.

The Book Of Souls—-Again with the Spanish flavor from the guitar intro? This track takes a bit to get going but when it does…I smile. The sound of the band is deeper and more plodding than normal. Dickinson delivers very dark lyrics….the words he writes are like a vivid picture book. The ‘chorus’is huge….offered with a catchy hook and a stellar vocal. This delivers as only a title track should. This is 100% classic Maiden! Well worth the wait.

Disc Two:

Death Or Glory—-At the onset,this track sounded a bit muddled to me…the clear and concise tones were drowned out by the deep bass tones of Harris. Dickinson delivers a vocal that lightens things up a bit and Adrian Smith adds backdrop vocals to make the song even larger. This is typical Maiden fare…..mayhem and battles and tales of adversity.

Shadows Of The Valley—-One of my favorite tracks on this release….I love the urgency of the music….it drives the song forward….line after line and word after word. The drums are incredible….I don’t think Maiden drum get enough credit…its all about Harris and Dickinson. This has nice mood shifts…the lyrics are perfect….the song has a dark edge….true Metal for me.When the band all sings together,it is a huge free for all!!!

Tears Of A Clown—-With a propulsive progressive intro, the song seems like is is dragged like a tugboat into itself. The excitement dies down a bit with the entrance of a remarkably clear vocal from Bruce. This is a nice break from the previous two tracks…this has a different sound to it…I love this song.

The Man Of Sorrows—-A soaring, almost beautiful lead guitar ushers in this track…..with the vocal following soon after…with clarity and sincerity. This is really nice…showcasing the recovered voice remarkably well. The ability to match the vocals with the music is a talent. When the song opens up a bit, it becomes even larger and darker…..even though Bruce is pushed to the back a bit…you can catch every word. The galloping Maiden sound returns and you have a full fledged classic track.

Empire Of The Clouds—-At over 18 minutes in length, this is practically a mini album in itself. This combines all of the great parts of this release and makes it into one huge song. A bit overblown but none the less epic, this is a nice ending to a superb release. Moody and full of many movements, this track plays much faster than you would imagine…despite all the musical interludes…there are few breaks…the song stands on its own two feel very well. This is moody and huge.

**** out of 5

 

 

Barry Gibb / In The Now

In The Now - Deluxe

Barry Alan Crompton Gibb, CBE (born 1 September 1946) is a British singer, songwriter and record producer who rose to worldwide fame as a co-founder of the group Bee Gees, one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed groups in the history of popular music. With his brothers, Robin and Maurice Gibb, he formed a songwriting partnership beginning in 1966.

Born on the Isle of Man, he was raised in Manchester where he became involved in the skiffle craze, forming his first band, the Rattlesnakes, which evolved into the Bee Gees in 1960 when they moved to Redcliffe, Queensland, Australia. They returned to England where they achieved worldwide fame. He was also known for his high-pitched falsetto singing voice. Gibb shares the record with John Lennon and Paul McCartney for consecutive Billboard Hot 100 number ones as a writer with six. Guinness World Recordslists Gibb as the second most successful songwriter in history behind Paul McCartney.

Gibb’s career has spanned over fifty years. In 1994, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame with his brothers. In 1997, as a member of the Bee Gees, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and received the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music. Barry is a fellow of the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors.[10]

For services to music, Gibb (along with his brothers) was appointed Commander in the Order of the British Empire at Buckingham Palace on 27 May 2004. In 2007, Q magazine ranked him number 38 on its list of the “100 Greatest Singers”.

In the Now is the second solo album by  Barry Gibb, released on 7 October 2016 by Columbia Records.Although his second solo album (since 1984’s Now Voyager), it is the first of all new material since the Bee Gees‘ final studio album This Is Where I Came In (2001). Gibb said of the album: “This is a dream come true for me. It’s a new chapter in my life. I always hoped one day that The Bee Gees would be with Columbia or indeed Sony so, it’s a great joy for me to start again this way with such great people.

The Analysis—-

In The Now—-I have been a die-hard Bee Gee’s fan for most of my life…to  have this release….after  so many tragedies is like a dream come true. Trust me when I tell you that this effort is fantastic. Barry belies his 70 years and sounds on record like a young man. The falsetto is not mandated….instead this track…as with most of the release relies on melody and heartfelt vocals. The background singers make you step back for a moment….you would think the brothers were all together again. This has a slight funk, retro feel to it that could play wonderful on FM radio. A majestic return.

Grand Illusion—-For me, the centerpiece of this release. This has every element of a true Bee Gee’s classic. The breathy vocal delivery…the double tracked backdrop…the funky slight guitar track is incredible. The voice is so strong and real…no effects needed. This is amazing. The chorus hits you with that magical melody only Gibb was capable of. This is a sure fire hit for me….if it can ever get played.

Star Crossed Lovers—-This song has a nice 70’s retro feel to it that just makes me melt. The music is plush and delivered with a aura around it that makes me think of early hits played on classic FM stations back in the early days. Gibb delivers line after breathy line that just makes you sad yet brings a surprise smile to your face…like a long lost friend that has decided to visit.

Blowin’ A Fuse—-A nice guitar driven Duran Duran intro opens this track. Gibb has a vocal pushed to the back of the mix and sounds a bit dated, but it plays really well with the band he has put together with his sons. This sounds like an older tune that was resurrected for this release…but it is not a throw a way…just sounding very 80’s.

Home Truth Song—-And we return back to that magical melody that drove so many hits to the top of the charts. That jangly sound combined with the breathy vocal is just incredible. There are nice organs on the track….and a huge chorus…typical…but magnificent. The chorus melody has a definite Country feel to it…but it plays so well to my ears. This is just about perfect.

Meaning Of The Word—-Beginning with a vocal that is almost spoken, you feel the sincerity of the words. This is a beautifully written love song that allows you to feel the pain and the angst. This is a talent….the man breathes emotion and it is never more apparent here…this is magical. That breath at the end of his words….stuff that makes woman swoon…..magnificent.

Cross To Bear—-From all accounts I have read, this has a slight political edge to it…speaking on different religions and the refusal to get along. This I can tell you…when the chorus of this song kicks in, you don’t care what the fuck it is about. It is perfect pop music written by a seasoned perfect pop star. This is as it is….but you can’t take away from the beauty of the song. It has power, Majesty and a hook you can’t shake.

Shadows—-Returning to a more retro feel, the guitars that play have a slight island feel to them…indeed in the backdrop of the song the low hum reminds you of wind swept beaches. The voice is incredible….full of perfect enunciation and understandable words. There is a feeling of loss and of joy wrapped together in the perfect storm.

Amy In Colour—-I’ve read accounts about the meaning and inspiration for this song, but I will leave it alone. The music is a bit odd…slight and spacey….the voice at the very front of the mix…even when the bluesy guitars burst open. This is nice…but maybe an attempt to sound current.

The Long Goodbye—-The vocal is at the first second the song begins….with simple piano, this hearkens back to a 60’s sound the brothers had such success with. This is wonderfully constructed…some slight horns appear and make the track larger…but the focus is never off of the vocal…the most important instrument in this studio.

Diamonds—-Again, stripped bare and just offering the voice at the beginning of the song, a really nice acoustic guitar enters by the second bar and brings a fuller sound to the song. There is a bit of a country feel to the song…but when the double tracked chorus hits with the more electric guitar, you are swept up in the talent of it all. This is fantastic.

End Of The Rainbow—-Written for his Brothers and written for loss,you feel each word and line that is delivered. The track urges you to make peace…be happy and live your life…because it can be gone….so very quickly. A sad track….but an incredible end to a pretty fantastic release.

***** out of 5

 

Epica / The Holographic Principle [Deluxe]

The Holographic Principle

Epica is a Dutch symphonic metal band, founded by guitarist and vocalist Mark Jansen after his departure from After Forever. They are known for their symphonic sound and the use of female vocals and male growls, performed by Simone Simons and Mark Jansen respectively, whilst writing primarily their lyrics. Their songs largely deal with philosophical topics, including science, politics, society,culture,history, religion, and world events.

The Holographic Principle is the seventh studio album by the Dutch symphonic metal band Epica, released on 30 September 2016 through Nuclear Blast.

The idea behind the album is the universe is a digitally generated hologram. Singer Simons indicated that the band had been writing for about a year, which resulted in 27 songs. These were whittled down to eighteen for the recording sessions with twelve featuring on the album. The additional six songs were left for a later release.

The instrumental track Eidola was written by Jansen who worked on the arrangement with keyboard player Coen Janssen “[adding] an orchestra which gives a cinematic feel”. The title refers to the Greek word Eidolon. The song Edge of the Blade was co-written by guitarist Isaac Delahaye and singer Simone Simons and was released as a single on 8 September 2016, accompanied by a video.

The Analysis—-

Eidola—-Epic would be a mass understatement to describe the opening feeling of this release. There are, as previously stated, enough sound effects and orchestration to lead you to believe you are viewing opening credits for a huge movie. This is epic, expansive…..and beautifully intricate.

Edge Of The Blade—-The keyboard that runs through this track seem right out of an ELP release….this is huge. Simone has the most pleasant voice possible…serene without being operatic like Tarja. The mix of the traded vocals are huge for a release like this…allowing for diversity and listen-ability. This is a damn catchy song….sometimes making me think of Evanescence.

A Phantasmic Parade—-Beginning with a rather jaunty keyboard line, the song opens up to an extravaganza of sonic beauty. The vocal gets a little close to annoying with the upper register, but it is not a loss. The tale is told with vivid words and the music never allows you to become bored. This is where Nightwish should be now in their career…but they have had many mis-steps. This is sonic-ally brilliant…a nice mix of beauty and brutality. The drums are brilliant!!!

Universal Death Squad—-With a string intro and a slow moving beauty, this track is a favorite of mine. The beauty and intricate melody is soon replaced by galloping drums and guitars that have a sense of brutality. When the breaks in the music occur, the orchestration is always present underneath of it….giving this a huge sound. The vocals are, at the onset a gang song of words before Simone enters and sings with a nice sense of urgency. The mix, the dichotomy of the vocal styles are brilliant….there is something for everyone.

Divide And Conquer—-Epic and seemingly movie oriented once again, this 7+ minute track is a field day of sounds and moods. This track has huge choir sounding vocals in the backdrop and a much more fluid trade off between clean and gut vocals. This is almost like a conversation taking place in your headphones. Remarkable…I’m not sure how you sit down and construct something this epic….but I’m damn glad they did. The spoken word interludes are frightening and effective!

Beyond The Matrix—-This is brilliant….from the first notes I fell in love with this track. There are swirling orchestrated lines throughout the track…..the vocals are huge and sung together like a choir….talk about EPIC!!!  Simone comes in on her own over a very heavy almost funky bass guitar line…..serving as a nice break. The drums continue at a breakneck speed though…this is incredibly well put together…I simply love this song!

Once Upon A Nightmare—-Beginning with a cello….yes, a cello, this is a bit slow to start. It is a rather dark and moody melody that builds and then ebbs back of a bit. The vocal enters and it is a bit of a let-down…a little too sweet and perfect. I don’t really care for this…..it is too plaintive and ‘Broadway’ in sound.

The Cosmic Algorithm—-Returning to full orchestrated metal, the guitars that usher in this track are just brutal. The drums are heavy and drive the track at a maddening pace. Simone delivers a much better vocal on this track….sounding more like a metal singer. This is epic….huge and brilliantly constructed. The urgency and the push the music gives off welcomes in the deeper vocal incredibly well. This is phenomenal.

Ascension: Dream State Armageddon—-Definitely dreamy at the onset, you are teased with huge drums as the vocal is delivered. Within a minute, the track opens up with a brutal vocal that is full of venom and vitriol. Jansen is a great alt vocalist for the band…..giving it a moody and real feel. This is fantastic…I could hear him for a whole release if allowed…lol. Simone and her vocal breaks up the song nicely into different moods. This is by far, the most ‘brutal’ track on the release thus far.

Dancing In A Hurricane—-This track melds directly from the previous and offers an interesting India type music before the vocal enters. The voice is as you would expect with this type of grandiosity….a bit theatrical and too brazen for my taste….but you take it as it comes right? The interesting music keeps you from becoming too bored….but this is really Broadway to me.

Tear Down Your Walls—-Another seamless transition from one track to the other, this begins much in the same fashion….suddenly opening up and exploding with huge guitars and relentless drums. This is a nice return after the previous track. Jansen returns with a brutal vocal that is urgent and maddening. Simone provides the ‘chorus’, but Jansen is the star of this track. The backdrop vocals are huge….but the musicianship is even larger. Fantastic!

The Holographic Principle: A Profound Understanding Of Reality —-11 minutes long? Seriously….yes…..seriously. Beginning with a mass of monk styled vocals and huge atmosphere, the swirls of instruments are delivered at a maddeningly slow pace. Swells and swells of music occur…while you wait…almost holding your breath to see how this opus will conclude.There are nice guitar interludes throughout…breaking up the instrumentation….Jansen delivers a backdrop vocal that adds to the urgency of the orchestration. Finally Simone enters with that toooo sweet vocal of hers….a definite dichotomy of sounds. But the return of Jensen keeps the track from downing in its own grandiosity. Not something I would listen to on a regular basis….this is just too theatrical for me.

Understanding Of Reality—-This is very, very odd to me. I don’t like the sound of the song. No……this is what I paid extra for? This is a waste of space.

Dancing In A Gypsy Camp—-Filled with gypsy styled music, this is just a redux of previous versions of songs….really a disappointment.

Immortal Melancholy—-Again…..this was a waste of money in my opinion. This sounds like it stepped right off the stage of a not very good musical. The music is stripped bare and the vocal is so theatrical I can’t get past it. I’m disgusted.

The Funky Algorithm—-This should be a crime…to take such a grand song and turn it into something that almost pokes fun at itself. This is a huge mis-step to me…I’m pissed with the offereing that cost me 5 bucks more than the original would. This is horrible.

Universal Love Squad [Alt. Version]—-Stripped down bare and removing any power that the track had in its original form, this is another unacceptable outtake from these sessions. This only made me think twice or three times about buying a deluxe version of any release this band offers.

*** out of 5

 

 

 

Morrissey /World Peace Is None Of Your Business [Deluxe]

World Peace Is None Of Your Business

Steven Patrick Morrissey (born 22 May 1959), professionally known as Morrissey, is an English singer, songwriter and author. He rose to prominence as the lead singer of the indie rock band The Smiths, which was active from 1982 to 1987. Since then, Morrissey has had a solo career, making the top ten of the UK Singles Chart on ten occasions.

Born in Davyhulme, Lancashire, to a working-class Irish migrant family, Morrissey grew up in Manchester. As a child he developed a love of literature, kitchen sink realism and popular music. Involved in Manchester’s punk rock scene during the late 1970s, he fronted two punk bands, The Nosebleeds and Slaughter & The Dogs, with little success. Beginning a career in music journalism, he authored a number of books on music and film in the early 1980s. With Johnny Marr he established The Smiths in 1982, soon attracting national recognition for their self-titled debut album. As the band’s frontman, Morrissey attracted attention both for his intelligent, witty, and sardonic lyrics and his idiosyncratic appearance; deliberately avoiding rock machismo, he cultivated the aesthetic of a social outsider who eschewed drugs and embraced celibacy. The Smiths released five further albums – including the critically acclaimed Meat is Murder and The Queen is Dead – and had a string of hit singles. Personal differences between Morrissey and Marr resulted in The Smiths’ separation in 1987.

In 1988, Morrissey launched his solo career with the album Viva Hate. This and its follow-up albums – Bona Drag, Kill Uncle, Your Arsenal, and Vauxhall and I – all did well in the UK Albums Chart and spawned a number of hit singles. Having left Britain and moved to Los Angeles, during the mid-1990s Morrissey’s image began to shift into that of a burlier figure, who toyed with patriotic imagery and working-class masculinity; his discussions of British national identity resulted in accusations of racism, which he denied. In the mid-to-late 1990s, his subsequent albums, Southpaw Grammar and Maladjusted, also charted but were less well received. After a hiatus between 1998 and 2003, Morrissey released a successful comeback album, You Are the Quarry, in 2004. Relocating to Italy, ensuing years saw the release of albums Ringleader of the Tormentors, Years of Refusal, and World Peace Is None of Your Business. In 2013 Morrissey released his autobiography, followed by his first novel in 2015.

Highly influential, Morrissey is widely credited as being a seminal figure in the emergence of indie rock and Britpop. He has been acclaimed as one of the greatest lyricists in British history, with his lyrics having become the subject of academic study. He has courted controversy with his forthright opinions – endorsing vegetarianism and animal rights, condemning royalty and prominent politicians, and questioning issues of British national and cultural identity.

The Analysis—-

World Peace Is None Of Your Business—-After years of waiting, the opening strains of this track greeted me and I felt myself almost swoon. Morrissey enters with his sardonic and classic vocal….reminding me all of the reasons why I fell in love with this man. The sarcasm masked with the pretty music is just as you would expect. This is Morrissey at his best. Pretty timely with the climate in the US these days.

Neal Cassidy Drops Dead—-With a guitar blast, the track begins with a noisy somewhat distorted delivery. I wonder how many people discovered Neal Cassidy after this track was released. Of course I love the rhythmic delivery for Steven…the music though is a bit all over the place. There are nice swings through sound that keep it from being to irritating. There are times when the voice seems pushed to the back…but still an ok song. The odd Spanish style guitar towards the end is bizarre….but would you expect anything less?

I’m Not A Man—-With an odd morose intro, this track is very slow to start. The intro seems to last forever as you wait and wait for the second act. Finally, the voice emerges and you are given a beautiful lesson into the beauty of this man and his ability. the sardonic words…the rhyming of bizarre references that seem to magically work. The sedate music that builds and builds and allows Steven to gust and blow his opinions in a beautiful and remarkable setting. This is classic…I gush….yes I gush. I love this man.Only Morrissey could rhyme ‘t-bone steak with cancer of the prostate’! This is an incredible track.

Istanbul—-Delivering a classic Morrissey sound with this track, you realize the Man has never gone….just has struggled to be heard. Every track on this release is as important and timely and crucial as anything that he has delivered in his career. I love the melody of this track…the swirling string sounds that never drown the vocal. The odd guitars from Boz that still allow the spotlight to be on the words and the sentiment. Just a beautiful…huge track. There was never a doubt…..

Earth Is The Loneliest Place —-Morrissey emerges from an odd Spanish guitar intro that seems like it is right in your face. The production moves the vocal it seems, as the song progresses….but Morrissey and his sentiment rise above everything. You realize the words from this man could very well be true…..to him, it seems like a lonely existence…even if it is at his own making. The odd organ is phenomenal…the song ebbs and flows and wraps itself around his voice…..this is magnificent.

Staircase At The University—-Noisier and delivered with a sense of urgency, this is just wonderful. Morrissey tries to crack that classic falsetto…but settles for the upper register that brings you back to the classic days of his career. This track….morose…..sarcastic and vivid with subtle savagery, this is just wonderful. Perhaps not meant to bring a smile to your face it will….this is The Headmaster Ritual Part II……incredible. The pressure for success is every where. This track is very noisy…..but never takes from the vocal.

The Bullfighter Dies—-With a horn intro, you know you are in for a treat…just from the title of the song. Morrissey has never denied his distaste for the art of Bullfighting. This is a classic sarcastic delivery from Moz….demanding that anyone who indulges i this sport should be killed and not celebrated. Really funny in a sense…but rings true for the activist in me.

Kiss Me A Lot—-With wonderful Spanish horns as a slight introduction, Morrissey enters with his classic croon and delivers line after line of un-requited [requited?] love. Morrissey practically begs for love and affection….but sets himself so far from the human race you wonder if he can accept it when it is offered. I love the man…but analyzing his personality gives me a headache. This is wonderfully happy and upbeat…making me smile.

Smiler With Knife—Quiet and introspective…but built around lyrics that make you question personality and trust. Morrissey takes the happiest of situations and manages to put a negative twist on things….allowing you to wonder what the thoughts of your beloved might be while you are in a deep and peaceful slumber. It makes you think…and that is Morrissey. Sex and love are not the same.

Kick The Bride Down The Aisle—-An almost epic keyboard intro, ushering in a quiet guitar and a lonely lyric that makes you laugh to yourself. The sarcastic timbre’ of the lyrics are close to my heart…for they are pure Morrissey. The tone of the song…..marry me and support me….are classic eye-blind wearing Moz…..never believing marriage could be about just love.

Mountjoy—-Wonderful classic acoustic guitars built around sound effects recall older Morrissey tracks. The lyrics…again…full of vivid imagery that makes you sit back and wonder exactly how you are supposed to take the whole meaning of the song. But trying to analyze Morrissey lyrics lead you down a dark path. Instead, I embrace the beauty and clarity of the vocal and the simplicity of the melody

Oboe Concerto—-Another track that is ushered in with vocal effects and odd sounds, Morrissey begins his vocal ruefully wondering where the classics have gone….but at the same time making fun of himself. How many Morrissey songs get stuck in the head….lol He is in such great vocal form of this release…sounding way younger than his years…..this is just wonderfully brilliant delivered lines and vocals.

Scandanavia—-Drum heavy at the onset, Morrissey enters in that upper register that almost makes me swoon. Singing over erratic music and making the words match perfectly, this is a true art. The noise has no effect on the beauty and the introspection of the words. Morrissey can take a wonderful sentiment and turn it into something dark and morose…..such as this track. A beautiful place that can not escape the ugliness of human kind. Remarkable.

One Of Our Own—-Dark and jaunty at the same time, this is again classic. The ability to paint such a dark picture around pleasant sounds amazes me. Morrissey sounds perfectly evil as he begs ‘give me the gun’…..making me afraid for a moment. The man has so many sides…he is an enigma…a hero…a fear of what I could become.

Drag The River—-The sounds of the river make you afraid….lol. The music is light and pleasant…the lyrics full of sardonic humor and laugh-ability. Such as ‘Girlfriend In A Coma’…..this has a comical edge….but is also self-effacing and sad. This is wonderfully typical….but I will tell you this…..I could never ask for anything more.

Forgive Someone—-Speaking on the simple act of forgiveness, Moz manages to cause a discussion. Seemingly to not believe in the art of forgiveness….the idea speaks of the man’s difficult-ness. I believe Morrissey lives in a self-perpetuated image, that the man himself is much more pleasant upon becoming acquainted. Only a dream of mine…..but I love him none the less.

Julie In The Weeds—-With a very odd intro and ensuing music, again Morrissey shows the art of wrapping lyrics written around music…for that is how he works. He manages to take an idea….and build a story on the instrumentation….just phenomenal. This track is not a favorite….filler no doubt…but still something to dwell on and try to dissect. I will never understand him….I can only embrace him.

Art-Hounds—-Full of horns at the onset, I was prepared to hate this track….until the vocal emerged and wrapped itself around me. The purity of the voice and the sarcastic humor is just brilliant. I can picture Morrissey back in the Warhol days…wondering how he would survive with Andy and crew. Morrissey delivers a stellar falsetto I have not heard in forever….just that was worth listening to the song. This is right up there with the best….rushed…full of edge and urgency. Delivered with magnificent grace. I love this man!

***** out of 5

 

 

Carnifex / Slow Death

Slow Death

Carnifex is an American deathcore band from San Diego, California. Formed in 2005, they are currently signed to Nuclear Blast after having been signed to Victory Records and have released six full-length albums and one EP. The name of the band is derived from the Latin: carnifex, meaning “butcher” or sometimes “executioner”.

The band’s sixth studio album Slow Death was released on August 5, 2016. To support the new album, Carnifex joined Cannibal Corpse on the 10th annual Summer Slaughter Tour in North America as well as Knotfest/Ozzfest. Also two music videos were released on YouTube to promote the album, the first being “Drown me in Blood” and the second being “Slow Death”.

The Analysis—-

Dark Heart Ceremony—-Slow…..and creeping through your headphones, there is a nice sense of foreboding to this release. Piano heavy and mysterious at the onset, the slow build is almost maddening. Once the vocal enters with a brutal yell, the music is set loose. The drums are just incredible…although many of the other instruments sound a bit muddled and pushed together. The double vocal style actually allows you to catch some lyrics here and there. At the mid point of the track, the guitars do emerge with a nice clarity.

Slow Death—-Opening with an immediate urgency, you have no time to catch your breath from the previous track. There are nice tempo changes and some varied vocals on here…you never get bored from a monotony of sound. The sound is a bit dense…..a little to dark in the production, but there is an underlying catchiness to this song.I like this band….can’t believe I’m just stumbling upon  them. The tempo break in the middle of the song…with the clear and awesome guitar playing is fantastic.

Drown Me In Blood—-With a bit of respite, this moody intro does not last. The vocal smacks you in the face with a slight industrial edge. The guitars are very present on this track and the ‘clean; vocals are incredible. The hammer like drums drive the song and keep it interesting. This is not as brutal as Cannibal or some other bands…but this is driven and practiced. Really fantastic.This will play live really well.

Pale Ghost—-The very few seconds of the intro to this track carry a huge industrial sound, but the guitars pick up the pace and the song becomes a barrage of speed and noise. The vocal is nice…I like that you can actually understand what they are saying…missing in many bands of this genre. The middle break of the track allows the guitar to soar and stand out….giving you many moods and less of a constant barrage of sound. Well constructed.

Black Candles Burning—-Returning to full throttle speed on this track, there is a really nice melody that runs through the bottom layer of this song. This is not a thrown together release….this band has 6 releases under it’s belt, and you can tell. The breaks and tempo changes keep everything interesting…but it is constructed rather than being recorded mayhem. A really great band.

Six Feet Closer To Hell—-There are definitive keyboards on this release….but they are used to only bolster the sound and the mood of the songs. There is again, a prevalent melody running through this track…it allows your head to move along with the slight groove to the song. the chorus is huge and the crowds will love this live. Nothing disappointing about this album.

Neurotoxic—-The sound and pace of this track is relentless…..pounding you in the skull with a huge sound and constant noise. The vocals are huge….and underneath of it all a slight orchestrated keyboard that gives the track an urgency and incredible darkness. The trade off of vocals in this band work very well…the higher tones of the screams and the deep guttural lines play off of each other so well. This is just phenomenal.And in the middle of it all a soaring guitar solo that brings everything together.

Life Fades To A Funeral—-The above track magically fades into this track….a heavy piano intro that gives off an ominous and sad feel. This was really a surprise for me…this track has a beautiful edge to it with standout guitars and a nice serene feel. This really caught me by surprise….very pleasant and unexpected. Fantastic!

Countess Of The Crescent Moon—-Not resting on its laurels for too long, this track returns to a full throttle sound that is fast….brutal and features incredible drums. The vocals are delivered together…giving the song a very large feel. This is incredibly diverse and melodic….with a true sense of brutality thrown in to keep everything dark. Just incredible.

Servants To The Horde—-Ending this release…..way to soon for me, this track delivers much as the rest of the album. Melody….brutality…but incredible listen-ability. The ‘chorus’ is damn near catchy and allows you to really embrace the song. The low hum of the keyboards make the song very large….the breaks keep everything interesting…but in place and well constructed. Definitely a band I need to investigate further!

****1/2 out of 5

 

Pet Shop Boys / The ‘Super’ Remixes [So Far….]

Pet Shop Boys are an English electronic pop duo, formed in London in 1981 and consisting of Neil Tennant (main vocals, keyboards, occasional guitar) and Chris Lowe (keyboards, occasional vocals).

Pet Shop Boys have sold more than 50 million records worldwide,[1] and are listed as the most successful duo in UK music history by The Guinness Book of Records.[2] Three-time Brit Award winners and six-time Grammy nominees, since 1985 they have achieved forty-two Top 30 singles and 22 Top 10 hits in the UK Singles Chart, including four UK number ones: “West End Girls” (also number one on the US Billboard Hot 100), “It’s a Sin“, an acclaimed cover of “Always on My Mind” and “Heart“. Other hit songs include a cover of “Go West“, “Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money)” (satire of Thatcherism) and “What Have I Done to Deserve This?” in a duet with Dusty Springfield. At the 2009 Brit Awards, Pet Shop Boys received an award forOutstanding Contribution to Music.

Pet Shop Boys interview 2013 still.png

The Analysis—-

The Pop Kids—-

The Pop Kids (Remixes)

The Pop Kids [Radio Edit]—-Pretty much what you would expect from a short 3 minute radio edit, there is little new to be offered from this version. It is the infectious synth driven excellence of the track that drove me to buy this…besides as a collector with over 50 releases by PSB…you have to stay complete.

In Bits—-One of the best reasons to buy remixes from this band are the plethora of B-sides you get when you do. This is no exception. Filled with exceptional synth lines that would fit perfect on any release by the band, the vocal enters with a sardonic quality that is classic Neil. I guess it must be a British thing…lol. This is wonderfully sad but happy at the same time…it is that simple contradiction that always brings me back.

One-Hit Wonder—-Light at the onset….almost reminding me of early Depeche Mode, this is wonderfully addictive and poppy.  This is a brilliant synth track that makes you smile and bob your head along with the simple lyrics and light- hearted feel of the song. Neil offers little to the track…this is all Chris….and it is fantastic 80’s style synth pop.

The Pop Kids [Deep Dub]—-I have never been a huge fan of dub remixes…but here it is as usual. The piano synth is heavy and laden with a deep feel as you would expect. The pace of the track is slower and fuller…with swirls and catches….mixed with the original for a longer dance floor version, I can see it as wonderful. Standing alone…it becomes a bit monotonous.

The Pop Kids [The Full Story Remix]—-This is a nice remix….seeming to push the vocal very forward in the song. The piano synth is so 90’s dance inspired you can’t help but love it. The breaks are nice for remixing and the tone of the song is very true to the original. It will be the breaks that make this a favorite to DJ’s.

*** out of 5

Twenty-Something—-

Twenty-Something (Kornél Kovács Remix)

Twenty-Something [Radio Edit]—-Again, true to the original…this has a few more high hats in the underbelly of the synth line. The melody of the song is damn infectious….after a few listens…..you just fall in love with this.The slight reggae feel to the sound drives it along….my head is still bobbing back and forth.

The White Dress—-Beginning with a deep deep synth line, the song opens up a bit with a melody that makes you smile despite the less than happy feel of the whole thing. There are some nice underlying effects in the track that keep it interesting. The piano is syrupy sweet….Neil finally enters with his sad and forlorn vocal that makes you wonder exactly who he might be singing about. This is brilliant for a B-side. This is the REASON to collect…the surprises are brilliant!

Wiedershan—-The vocal is immediate and the piano is offered with no effects or synth at all. This is sedate….sad and forlorn…leaving you with a slight sadness that is hard to shake. I am so surprised at the tone of the vocal….Neil can still sing in that upper register with no problem what so ever…..just beautiful.

Twenty-Something [Los Evo Jerdis Remix]—-At the onset, this remix sounds more stripped bare…but a few lines in and the reggae infused sound I speak of becomes even more pronounced. The vocal is true to the original…it is the instrumentation that gives the track a larger feel. This sounds like Ace Of Base…lol. Not to say that is a bad thing…I love this remix…..stands alone as an original just fine.And really….it took me a bit to realize how biting this song really is to the younger generation. Classic lines referring to smartphones and issues you care about allow you to understand the point.

Twenty-Something [Konel Kovacs Remix]—-I really don’t much care for this version. Everything I loved about the track is stripped bare and gone from this remix. The sound is much more abrasive and has a slight annoying sound to it….I will pass…..everyone is allowed a mistake or two.

*** out of 5

 

 

Say It To Me—-

Say It to Me (Remixes)

Say It To Me [New Radio Mix]—-This mix was a bit of a surprise for me…there are nice subtle changes in the synth lines that took me a second to realize. This is wonderfully upbeat and driven by the back drop vocals. I love this…I much prefer it to the album version. Wonderfully classic!

A Cloud In A Box—-Right from the onset of the intro, you are taken in by the ‘house’ synths that drive this track. The blips and the beeps that are spaced through the track make the pace of the song incredible. I love B-side surprises like this. This is as good as any Vince Clarke composition……I will smile for days. This makes me want to jump up and dance like no one is watching….but they might be. The spoken vocal is classic Neil Tennant….this could be on the very first album……

The Dead Can Dance—-The intro to this track is odd….not sounding like the Boys until Neil enters with his vocal. I’m not sure what this song is about, but it is sedate and a bit of a downer. I like it though…I can’t fault anything about it…and underlying in the whole thing, Chris makes his synth apparent. Neil has a nice back track that makes the song a bit larger. Nice.

Say It To Me [Stuart Price Alternative Mix]—-More house oriented than the original, this has Stuart Price written all over it…if you are familiar with his remixes, you can recognize the ebbs and flows that he is known for….stripping the song and making the chorus large and then ebbing back off again. I like this….but prefer the original over this somewhat schizo remix.

*** out of 5