Irrelevant Troubadour

Allan Holdsworth, Metal Fatigue
January 15, 2011, 7:40 pm
Filed under: music

This is my third post for the TV Tropes Album Exchange Club.  It’s a review of Allan Holdsworth’s Metal Fatigue.

This album reminds me of King Crimson’s 80s post-punk stuff and Frank Zappa’s jazz fusion albums. I’m big fans of those albums, but this album didn’t really grab me. Why? After all, this album shares Discipline ‘s wonderful washes of guitar notes (and accomplishes them with one guitar, whereas King Crimson needed two!) and Hot Rats ‘s crazy, unconventional chord structures. This is fantastically intelligent and well constructed music.

I suppose the reason I didn’t really get into this album is that while it shares the technical and compositional skill of those two aforementioned albums, it’s lacking the feeling that drives those albums. It doesn’t have the nervous adrenalin that drives Discipline or the anarchic freakiness behind Hot Rats. Instead, it’s just a very good showing of technical virtuosity. Don’t get me wrong, there is some emotion here—I especially like the hopeful, driving “Panic Station”—but in general this album is rather lifeless.

In terms of more specific critiques, the very 80s production didn’t bother me all that much, and indeed is probably at least partially responsible for one of my favorite things about this album, Holdsworth’s godly guitar tone. The vocals, on the other hand, were severely lacking, seeming like something of an afterthought. And did the otherwise cool rhythm-epic “The Un-Merry-Go-Round” really need a fucking drum solo? The correct answer is no, because no song needs a fucking drum solo.

This is definitely a good album, but not one that I can honestly say I enjoyed. It just sounded a bit too staid for me. Perhaps if I were a guitarist I would be able to get more excited about it, but I’m not, so I approach music like this on an emotional rather than technical level, and on the emotional level this album was pretty lacking.


The Who, Quadrophrenia
January 15, 2011, 7:35 pm
Filed under: music

This is my second review for the TV Tropes Album Exchange Club.  It’s of The Who’s Quadrophrenia.

Oh Quadrophrenia, you great big ball of over-the-top rock ‘n’ roll drama you. The big problem with this, The Who’s second rock opera, is that it’s a bit too heavy on the “opera” and light on the “rock”. The incredibly grandiose, Broadway-style presentation of this album can be a bit of a turn off, especially on songs like “Helpless Dancer” where the music isn’t good enough to live up to the lavish treatment it’s getting.

However, moments like that are few and far between, since most of the music here is golden. And if you’re willing to approach this music on its own terms—as a big sprawling ambitious West End revue about teenage alienation—it really reveals itself as a classic. After all, don’t teenagers always think of their emotions in these grandiose terms?

This album has a clear counterpart in Pink Floyd’s fellow teenage angst epic The Wall, only unlike The Wall, this album rocks. “The Real Me” and “5:15” are great rock songs; “Cut My Hair”, the amazingly over-the-top “The Dirty Jobs”, and “Love, Reign O’er Me” are amazing fist-pumping power ballads, and “Doctor Jimmy” manages to combine all of this.

So in short this is a great album if you’re prepared for a whole bunch of teenage emotional theatrics. And aren’t those what rock ‘n’ roll was founded on?

Talons, Hollow Realm
January 15, 2011, 7:28 pm
Filed under: music

Recently, I’ve started participating in an album exchange club over at the TV Tropes.  It’s a bit like a book club, only with music.  We each submit an album, and listen to them each round-robin, giving our thoughts on each.  I’ve been writing reviews of the submitted albums, and I thought it might be worthwhile to mirror them here.  This is the album Hollow Realm by Talons.

Much of this album seemed to bleed together to me, and nothing particular stood out about it. Partly I think this is the fault of the mixing; the drums and guitars seem a bit too loud and the bass and strings too soft, making the album sound—forgive me—hollow. In fact, the rhythm section in general seemed to be a bit drowned, and for music like this to be intense, you need a strong beat.

The strings were the highlight of the album. They were a touch of purity amongst the toil and storm of the guitars. Said guitars would play some interesting figures every once and a while, but had a frustrating habit of dropping those figures too quickly and going back to being an angry bed of white noise. My favorite tracks on the album—”In the Shadows of Our Stilted Homes”, “Great Railroads”, and “Hollow Depth”—were the ones that allowed the individual elements of the band some time to shine, rather than just get lost in the din.

These guys definitely have chops and musical ideas in abundance, but I feel like they have trouble organizing everything they think of, leading to music that is somewhat muddled. But this is their first album, so they have lots of room to grow.

The Pitchfork Paradox
January 11, 2011, 11:15 pm
Filed under: music

Something that just occurred to me: Pitchfork Media has gone from something that hipsters base their musical tastes on the judgements of to something that bases its judgements on the musical tastes of hipsters.

I am okay with this.  It means I have yet another reason not to read Pitchfork anymore.