Tag Archive: review


Review: Collibus – The False Awakening

It’s 2014! New year, new music! Here’s the first new record I bought this year, and if you like the good old fashioned world of METAL (all in caps, obviously) then this, my probably tinnitus suffering friend, is for you. Continue reading

Advertisements

The Top Seven Albums of 2012

Well, hello. It’s that time again, where I pontificate – good word, huh? – on my favourite records of the year. Hardly anyone reads it, but it makes me feel better. And if one person listens to something and likes it? All good.

I don’t think it’s been a stellar year for music this year, I found myself listening to more and more podcasts and classic, older records than anything else. I wouldn’t say the music scene is stagnant, though. The album does seem to have less importance than it did. Maybe I’m just getting old…

Continue reading

Top 7 of ’09

The best albums of 2009

Well, hello. I’m sure all of you have been sat on the edge of your seat thinking “my, I wonder what Inno’s top records of the year are” – I can sense these things, y’know. I really can.

It’s just as well for you, dear reader, that I have indeed picked my top records this year… and I will regale you with my top seven right here. Why seven? Why not? Everyone does a top ten, and I’m not everyone. Trust me, I’m special. And not in *that* way.

I would just like to give some honourable mentions to the following – Them Crooked Vultures self titled debut, New Device’s “Takin’ Over“, Spinerette’s self titled record, and Gun’s “Popkiller” (even though it’s only a 5 track EP) as they didn’t quite make my list, but are all worth a listen to in their own right. With no further ado, on with the show!

7. The Answer – Everyday Demons

The big question I and presumably everyone else had was would The Answer be able to follow up their stonking debut or would the ‘difficult second album’ syndrome rear it’s ugly head? The answer – arf – was that they had no such difficulties. Everyday Demons was an amazing record… “Walkin’ Mat” and “Dead Of The Night” rocked out like classic Zeppelin, yet tracks like “Why’d You Take A Chance On Me” having the soul of Bad Company and Free. The Answer proved they were no flash in the pan, and will be at the forefront of the UK rock scene for years to come.
Key Track: Demon Eyes

6. Kiss – Sonic Boom

You know what? You listen to this and you swear you’ve heard it before… and that’s because you more or less have. It’s Kiss! You know what you’re gonna get with Kiss… but they do it better than anyone else out there. Lyrics like “Danger you, danger me, Dangerous” just make you grin, and add them to big riffs, big choruses, huge singalong bits… Kiss tick all the boxes. It’s a return to form… you can almost smell the face paint.
Key Track: Stand

5. Chickenfoot – Chickenfoot

Yup, it’s a supergroup that takes the ones Eddie Van Halen kicked out, adds them to the Chilli’s drummer and Joe Satriani… it’s a recipe for ego and disaster, but it’s not. It works in a big way. I’ve always been a huge fan of Sammy Hagar’s vocals, and he shines all over this. It’s tight, it grooves, it drives… it’s just a great feel good, fun time record. Here’s hoping to Chickenfoot volume 2 in the future.
Key Track: Oh Yeah

4. The Black Crowes – Before The Frost

Let’s get it out of the way, first and foremost: Yes, it does have that ‘Disco Tune’ on it. And it’s not as bad as you’d think. The Crowes, when they’re on, are world class musicians… and on this record, they are definitely on. They riff away as well as anyone, but they’re at their best when they’re playing the blues and hanging their heart on their sleeve. Chris Robinson’s vocals have never sounded so good, and Rich’s guitar playing compliments him rather than trying to steal show. They still don’t half write some nonsensical lyrics at times, but that’s the charm of The Crowes for me.
Key Track: Been A Long Time (Waiting On Love)

3. Lynyrd Skynyrd – God and Guns

If you can overlook the iffy politics of Skynyrd – and to be fair, they don’t deny they are Good Ol’ Fashioned rednecks, tracks like “That Ain’t My America” prove that – this is a colossal record. This isn’t Southern Rock as we know it, this is relevant, modern, flowing, and everything you wouldn’t expect from Skynyrd… bar it being good. This is proof that good bands never die, they just hibernate. Smooth vocals, precise guitars, slick riffs… what a record.
Key Track: Still Unbroken

2. Thunder – 20 Years & Out: Live At The Hammersmith Apollo

Yeah, it’s a live album, so what? And yes, I may be biased as I was there, and these guys have been the soundtrack to my life for nearly 20 years… but blow me, if this isn’t the sound of a band going out on a high, then I don’t know what is. The tracklist is just one skillfully crafted song after another… Luke’s guitar playing is awesome at times, and Danny has never sounded so good. It really does make you wish they were still going, but this is as fine an epitaph to a career as anyone could hope for. Incredible energy on stage, and from the crowd… just an awesome, awesome spectacle, none more so than the epic 17 minute finalé of “Dirty Love“.
Key Track: Dirty Love

1. The Wildhearts – Chutzpah!

The most perfect record of the year, by a long shot. One of the most perfect records I’ve ever heard. Ever. From start to finish, it’s a masterpiece. Huge choruses, huger riffs, amazing melodies, incredible vocals… it’s just… perfect. Ginger and the band have never sounded better on record. I’m not joking when I say that every track on the record would have made a great single. And the final two minutes of the record, the tail end of the incredible title track that covers at least 4 different genres… the guitar work on that is as beautiful, and as inspirational as anything I’ve ever heard. Seriously, peeps – do yourselves a favour and at least go check some of this record out. If there was any justice, this would have been all over the charts like a Simon Cowell wet dream.
Key Track: Chutzpah

So there you go. My choices. No doubt they don’t match anyone else’s – but that’s the joy of the Internet. Have a listen to them if you can… and enjoy!

Thunder: A retrospective – part three

Behind Closed Doors (1995)

Behind Close Doors

Behind Closed Doors

Three years passed between the release of Laughing on Judgement Day and this, Thunder’s third album. Behind Closed Doors. In those three years, founding bassist Snake Luckhurst left the band to be replaced by Swedish four-stringer Mikael Hóglund. This would be Mikael’s only record with the band, and I was reliably informed by my girlfriend at the time that he was “a hottie” – quite often in fact. Repeatedly, one might say.

Anyway, I digress. Upon release, the record reached #5 in the UK charts, and all 3 singles hit the UK top 40, again with little or no airplay or real media promotion, a trend that would become more and more evident as the years passed. In terms of sound, the record had a harder edge to my ears, and didn’t suffer for it. The cover art is again excellent, and a signed framed poster of it can be found hanging in my hallway to this very day!

Enough of the background info, on to the music itself!

The album opens with the HUGE, grungy hook of Moth To The Flame. This is easily the heaviest track that Thunder had come out with to this point, and still stands up strong to this day. With the impact of grunge on the US and world scene, a lot of people took this as perhaps Thunder’s attempt to subtly shift styles slightly; I don’t see it as anything as blatant as that – it’s just a great hook with darker than usual lyrics. With all the problems that Thunder had in between albums, it’s hardly surprising the lyrical fare was hardly sweetness and light.

Lightening up slightly was the next track, Fly On The Wall. Taking a sly swipe at the paparazzi and the desire for celebrity gossip, this was perhaps a missed single opportunity. It’s got a great strong bassline, big horns, and great vocals as usual from Danny. The backing vocals of Benny, Luke and Harry also shine through on this – the harmonies are slick and polished. All in all, a good solid track, if nothing truly spectacular.

Back to Thunder 101 now with a slow, moody ballad. I’ll Be Waiting is another tale of love gone wrong. Opening with a soft hook and expanding with some keyboards, Danny’s soulful, almost pained vocals take centre stage, and rightly so. Danny’s voice always had power, but this is perhaps the record where the power was controlled and mellowed out into what I regard as the best kept secret in rock music. Honestly, it’s not inconceivable to hold Danny Bowes up with the likes of Paul Rodgers and David Coverdale as the UK’s finest ever rock voices.

Up next, the second single River of Pain, still a favourite on the live shows, and very much a typical Thunder track. Controlled riffing from Benny and Luke back up a solid rhythm from Harry and new boy Mikael – and what else is left to be said about Danny’s vocals? As much as this was a good single and rocks out, there was something just formulaic about this track that still doesn’t sit quite right with me. It’s by no means bad, but just doesn’t stick out like a Higher Ground or Love Walked In does.

Future Train, on the other hand, gets in your brain and refuses to move. From the Eastern flavoured intro, to the chugging riff that really does remind you of a train, this is for me the finest song on this record. Luke’s lyrics on this one were overtly political for the first time, complaining about “a leader with an agenda to hide” and being generally pessimistic about the whole political system and the future in general, this was a departure of sorts for the band, and worked very well.

‘Til The River Runs Dry
remains one of the hardest songs to listen to that Thunder have committed to record. A song about domestic violence and the effect on a young woman, the hugely moving lyrics are backed up with strings and understated playing from the band that allows Danny to carry this song along. If you know anyone that’s been in this situation, it really will bring a tear to your eye. A fine reminder of just how powerful music can be at times, and one of Thunder’s most under rated moments.

Moving swiftly along, we come to the first single from this record, and one of the best riffs the band have produced. Stand Up hit the charts and heralded the first “comeback” that Thunder made from the wilderness of Record Company Hell. The riff is great, and for once Danny’s voice isn’t the focal point, allowing Luke’s guitar playing to step forward. Another live favourite, even to this day.

Controversial moment approaching? Possibly. Preaching From A Chair was the first time Thunder had – and whisper this gently – swore on record, albeit a mere “I can’t stomach bullshit when it’s preaching from a chair”. Being brutally honest, musically, this track just plods along like a mid paced album filler, but the lyrics – dissecting the music business and the sudden fascination for grunge bands and image over substance – are superb. The final minute or so does provide a great funky double guitar synchronised riff and a huge rock scream from Danny, so it does redeem itself!

The third and last single from the record, Castles In The Sand is a strange beast. On paper, it’s just a good old fashioned “love left me, oh woe is me, but I’ll live” kind of song, but it’s transformed into an almost epic tale by some top notch musicianship. The huge chorus is amazing, and that riff gets in your head and melts your brain at times, yet still shifts back into a nice, quiet, laid back number in time for each verse. Very, very good.

Too Scared To Live is by far the lightest moment on the record. A funky, almost 70s porn guitar riff is the basis, and the band seem right on the money with their take on this one. Telling the tale of a man taken in by all the warnings that modern life seems to give us, it’s light hearted, but there are serious undertones to it as well. The sheer unadulterated funkfest that seems to envelope the entire band is infectious, and you can’t help but smile all the way through it.

But back to Serious Rock next with Ball and Chain – another song designed to tell you that hell, your life sucks but you can change. It’s almost Higher Ground part two, to be honest. A big riff, thumping drums and a pounding bassline all contribute to this song, and another huge harmony filled chorus gives this song such a great swagger, it’s an instant foot tapper. Blind Lemon Morely’s harmonica also makes a welcome appearance, although no sign yet of Danny’s infamous Kazoo skills…

It Happened In This Town
closes off the record and it’s a heavy, introspective number. Lyrically, extremely dark and seemingly based on child abuse, it’s another song that, if you allow yourself to be lost in it, could bring you to tears. This is easily the darkest song that Luke has ever written. Even the guitar and organ break in the middle that allows Danny to really cut loose with some venomous vocals serves to make the whole track even more ominous.

So overall, how did Behind Closed Doors fare? It inevitably suffered from the change in the musical scene since Laughing On Judgement Day, but it still stands tall as a good record. However, it just doesn’t have the instant appeal of the first two records, and there are no jaw droopingly good tracks that can compare to Love Walked In or Low Life In High Places.

That’s not to say it’s a bad record – it’s not. But is it Thunder’s best? No. Much slicker than the first two records, and a sign of the band growing in stature and confidence. As such, it’s highly recommended, but not an essential purchase.

/// EDIT: It’s since been pointed out to me that Castles In The Sand also hit the UK singles chart, so that information has been added to the review. ///

Thunder: A retrospective – part two

Laughing on Judgement Day (1992)

Laughing On Judgement Day

Laughing On Judgement Day

So, 2 years on from what is widely regarded as a great debut – Thunder faced the “difficult” second album… that album would turn out to be Laughing on Judgement Day. Released in August of 1992, it stuck to the same formula of Backstreet – with Luke Morley assisting producer Andy Taylor behind the desk being the only real change.

This would prove to be Thunder’s most commercially viable record, entering the charts at a staggering #2 on release. And all 4 singles released from it hitting the top 40, with A Better Man providing a top 20 hit. For a lot of Thunder fans, it’s one of the most pleasurable albums to listen to and does contain a glut of genuine quality. It is also record that original member Snake Luckhurst would appear on, and without doubt the best cover to any Thunder record until Robert Johnson’s Tombstone.

The record opens up in a similar vein to Backstreet Symphony with a mid paced rocker, Does It Feel Like Love? For me this one of Danny’s best vocal performances ever and a stunning way to set the tone of the record. The production is stepped up just a notch, cleaner and sharper – perhaps some of the songs lose a little with that? When played live, a lot of the tracks here sounded rawer, more urgent and didn’t feel any worse for it.

Following the opener is one of the four singles, Everybody Wants Her – and perhaps Thunder’s most obvious commercial moments. Complete with keyboards and horns it’s certainly not a bad track, but seems to be set out to sound good on a radio station, rather than sit at home on a Thunder record. Having said that, it’s one of the 5 tracks on the record that Luke didn’t write himself, with Benny, Danny and Harry all contributing. Decent enough, if not grab-you-by-the-scruff-of-the-neck spectacular.

Which is where the next track comes in… Given a big budget for the video, Low Life In High Places was the lead off single for the album, and is one of those stone cold Thunder classic songs that should have been huge. Dealing with the issue of homelessness, it starts out with an acoustic intro, before kicking in with a HUGE riff, infectious chorus and an equally huge performance from Danny on vocals. This has become a live favourite, and indeed one of the moments when Danny gets to strut his stuff and demonstrate his vocal prowess. Utterly, utterly brilliant.

The title track, Laughing On Judgement Day, is up next. Following Low Life… is a hard task though and it maybe gets lost in the mix a little. While the subject matter of commercialism and working at the expense of your family is a fine one, the song perhaps doesn’t really have enough kick to remain in the memory for too long. Harry’s drumming is monstrous on this track though, it has to be said.

Empty City is for me, the best track on the record, and right up there with the best work that Thunder have put out over the years. Atmospheric, dark, brooding, sprawling… all of these and more apply to this seven minute monster of a track. Danny’s soulful Paul Rodgers-esque vocals hold your attention while the sublime guitar work of Benny and Luke draw you in further.

The riff that explodes in the mid section is big and bold enough to knock down a house, and would make Status Quo cry into their blue denims and trainers. Seriously, this is one of those “How were they never big?” moments that Thunder records and gigs seem to be full of. Worth looking out this record JUST for this track.

Following on from that was never an easy task, but Today The World Stopped Turning just about manages it. While it’s not a show stopper, it’s not a simple filler either. A nice mid paced moment with a big chorus to ease you back into things. A nice old fashioned pure love song, and no worse for it.

With a hammond organ intro, presumably courtesy of the multi talented Mr. Matthews, Long Way From Home is a slow burning track. Again, Danny’s vocals are soulful and passionate, a trend on this record, and no bad thing. The chorus on those is a huge sing-along moment, and it’s a shame this was never really played beyond the tour to back this record up.

Make sure your volume is up to hear Harry’s comedy intro to Fire To Ice followed by the call to ‘Get On With It’ and a HUGE riff, one of the best Luke and Ben have ever committed to record and a staple of my Thunder playlists. This song about alcoholism is far from a mid record moment, and could theoretically have been another single. The chorus on this is incredible, and Danny’s vocals, again, impeccable.

Another huge riff brings in Feeding The Flame, a simple song about love once lost, but with a typical Thunder twist on it. This record really has some of the best riffs that the band ever produced, small wonder a lotf fans absolutely love it. Not much to really say about this track, it is, while pretty damned good, just… ‘there’.

Onto the biggest hit taken from the record, a #18 stormer! A Better Man features ‘Blind Lemon’ Morley on harmonica as mentioned on stage numerous times by Danny. Ironic, as when performed live, this is often when Danny takes a break and drummer Harry James steps forward with acoustic guitar in hand to take over lead vocals… On record however, this is such a beautiful song, and one of my all time favourites. Simple chords, simple melodies, simple harmonies… not everything has to be technically complicated to provide an amazing song. This is a great, great song and again, should have been a bigger hit than it was.

Following on from that is another one of my personal favourites, another song about love and it’s many woes. The Moment Of Truth will never win any prizes for originality – it does have a distinctly Lenny Kravitz feel in places – but hell, it rocks and the lyrics are truly awesome in my mind… Play it loud and screech along to the chorus, peeps… you know you want to!

Yeah, this next one? Flawed To Perfection is the title, and an apt description. It’s so bad in places that it’s good! “There’s a ladder in her stockings that I’d love to climb / I’m hot under the collar for the hundredth time” – not Luke’s finest hour! The song is carried by a great riff, and the fact you can sense the guys laughing as they’re playing it. It’s just a silly, throwaway little song. Nothing more, nothing less.

Like A Satellite was the last single from the record, and seems a logical, solid Record Company choice. It’s a big, sweeping 5 minute rock ballad that the radio stations eat up. Granted, it’s one of the better examples, with Harry’s inspired drumming backing up an understated riff and allowing Danny’s soaring vocals to carry this one, along with a glorious twin guitar solo that could have been lifted from the Eagles or Thin Lizzy.

To close the record, Baby I’ll Be Gone is a great choice. It’s sleazy, dirty, hook gets in your brain and won’t get out, and as per the norm for this record, Danny’s vocals are spot on. Track for track, I really don’t think Danny has ever sounded better on record than over these 14 tracks. A nice easy way to close out the record.

So does it live up to the standards of Backstreet Symphony that every Thunder record is eventually judged against? Yes. It’s not as good, but it’s not THAT far off it. It’s vastly under-rated as a stand alone record in it’s own right, as far as I’m concerned. It’s got it’s down moments, sure, but it more than makes up for those. Not as an essential purchase as Backstreet… but get it anyway!

Once in a while, I drift in time…
to a place in my memory that it still hurts to find.
I was takin’ on the world with a see through smile,
but dyin’ on the inside all the while

— Thunder, A Better Man

Cinnoma: The Yes Man

CINNOMA!

Well, here we go. Back from the dead like… I dunno, that guy whose birthday we celebrated last week. You know… the one with the trees and presents. Forget his name. Anyway…

I decided to venture out from my warm-ish home on a bleak, dark, cold Friday night to go see The Yes Man, the new Jim Carrey face-pull-a-thon freshly released. I am a huge fan of the original book, and indeed the book’s author Danny Wallace.

Your cinema of choice was the Vue at Hamilton… ticket for the flick was £6.35, and the lovely regular coke/small popcorn and a kit-kat combo was not too bad (by cinema standards) at £3.25.

The cinema itself? Well, kinda bland, as I find most Vue Cinemas to be. Also, should be noted, I think I was the only single guy (or indeed single of ANY persuasion) there as almost everyone else was part of couple, and doing sickly sweet couple things like feeding each other popcorn and making lovey-dovey eyes at each other. Sickening. The other thing of note was the screen next to my movie was Twilight… and I have never, EVER seen so many teenage female Goths in one place. Honestly, if I was a vampire or 20 years younger, I could have died happily…

But I digress…

THE FACTS:

The Movie: The Yes Man
The Year: 2008
The Director: Peyton Reed
The Writer(s): Nicholas Stoller, Jarrad Paul, Andrew Mogel ; based on a book by Danny Wallace
The Stars: Jim Carrey, Zooey Deschanel, Terence Stamp, Rhys Darby

THE LOWDOWN:

Jim Carrey is a dweeb. One day he decides to say YES to everything, and becomes less of a dweeb, and learns a lesson along the way. Awwwww.

THE DIRT:

Well, first thing first – beyond the concept of saying Yes to everything, this has absolutely sod all to do with the book. If you’re going along to the flick expecting to see the hilarious antics of Danny Wallace, including a trip to Amsterdam and buying a strange green car… forget it.

With that out of the way, it’s not a real problem. The film itself is just your basic romantic comedy with a wacky premise. Kinda like Liar Liar, in fact… but let’s not dwell on that.

Carrey’s character, Carl, is dull. He stays in, lies to his friends to avoid going out, and has a dull job in a dull bank. He is, in short… a dweeb. His best friend gives up on him when Carl blows off his engagement party. When – shock! – out of the blue, an old friend of Carl’s appears and encourages him to go to a seminar where everyone is encouraged to say YES to everything.

The seminar scene is one of the highlights of the flick, with Terence Stamp gloriously dead-panning his way opposite Carrey to brow beat our hero into accepting the way of the Yes Man.

And of course, you know hilarity ensues afterwards. Carl meets a homeless man; Carl meets Alison (played by the really cute Zooey Deschanel) and falls in love; Carl receives *ahem* mouth lovin’ from his neighbour (another sheer highlight of the film, I defy you not to laugh); Carl saves a suicidal man from jumping by singing to him… Carl learns Korean; Carl learns to fly; Carl hops across the country being wacky and spontaneous; Carl gets accused of being a terrorist and loses the girl… Can you guess what happens in the end, folks? Yes, that’s right, Carl gets the girl! Yay!

Of course it’s sickly sweet in places, but hey, it’s an American Rom-Com, so you expect that. The funny stuff more than outweighs that. It’s not a movie for you to go and see and laugh so much you’ll end up with a hernia, but it does move along quickly and deliver belly laughs in places.

It is all very predictable and formulaic, but so what? It’s a nice, feel good movie with no real heavy moralising (except the final Carl/Alison scene) and for me, a killer soundtrack featuring mostly Eels tracks bar a couple of tracks from Alison’s band, Munchausen by Proxy… yes, they are really called that. Also, for geeks like me – seeing Danny Wallace himself pop up in a short cameo near the end made me all giggly… if I’d been with someone, I would have told them smugly who it was…<!–[if !mso]> <! st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } –>

THE BOTTOM LINE:

To sum up, it’s a fantastic way to escape your own boring life for a while. If you want a laugh, then you’ll not do much worse than going to see this. But for the love of all that’s right with the world, PLEASE go buy the book as well – The Yes Man, by Danny Wallace. Say Yes!

THE RATING:

EIGHT out of ten Golden Innos

To sum up, it’s a fantastic way to escape your own boring life for a while. If you want a laugh, then you’ll not do much worse than going to see this. But for the love of all that’s right with the world, PLEASE go buy the book as well – The Yes Man, by Danny Wallace. Say Yes!