All posts by Puppy

Chumbawamba

Tubthumper (1997)

I hate the album’s spoken introduction, but this does have some interesting material in addition to the (probably) one-hit-wonder single “Tubthumping”.  It also has a lot of decent music reduced in appeal by spoken-word pieces that smell vaguely similar to Frank Zappa’s catalog of horrors.  But if you want something a bit out of the ordinary, this might do the trick for occasional listening.
(“Tubthumping”)

Grade: B-

Cheap Trick

The Greatest Hits (1991)

Comparisons to The Beatles are absurd, given the respective quality of the output of each band.  I don’t even hear all that much similarity going on sonics alone…not only were they horribly outclassed, but they lacked the basic sound itself.  In short, even when they actively tried to imitate their betters, it sounded like nothing except Cheap Trick, actively trying to imitate their betters. Their own sound, on the other hand, wasn’t bad…although I grew to rapidly dislike Robin Zander’s vocals if not Rick Nielsen’s guitar.  All that said, there’s no need to purchase any individual album by this merely-OK group, which only had a couple of decent releases and a short run of major fame after touring for years building up a modest catalog of songs that was quickly exhausted.  Rick Nielsen is no guitar genius, he just wrote a bunch of songs and a few of them happened to be quality.  At least they were merely average on their own, and didn’t buy songs.  Ummm…well maybe just a few, near the end.  Trust me on this one, buy this if you must, and assume the rest of it sucks, because most of it does.
(“Surrender”)

Grade: B

P.S. – I (since corrected) mistakenly dubbed Nielsen “Roger” instead of “Rick”, probably because Cheap Trick sold out around the same time Heart did, and Roger was formerly a guitarist for Heart.  My apologies to the angry guy that notified me of this.

Catherine Wheel

Ferment (1992)

The first half of this album is quite impressive.  The vocals are top-notch, the playing is energetic, and the music tends to reach out and grab you.  They lose gas, or just figure it’s good enough already, after track six.  So feel free to cut your music media of choice in half and drown yourself in repeated listenings.
(“Black Metallic”, “I Want To Touch You”)

Grade: B+

Chrome (1993)

OK…what’s happening here?  Instead of the first half being worthy, now it’s the first third.  And it’s not nearly AS worthy.  Evidently they’ve developed their own sonic style, which I assume sells well in the UK.  Therefore, the need to write surefire hits, semi-classics, even decent songs is lessened considerably.

Grade: C

Happy Days (1995)

Nice cover art.  I’m just masking my frustration at another mediocre offering that I bought based on one song(and on previous glory).  In fact, I’ve acquired five albums from this band based mostly on my fascination with two songs.  I think I’d like them to gather some supplies, move into a fallout shelter for ten years, and emerge with enough good material to rival ‘Ferment’.  Or better yet, a mental ward.  There’s nothing much to do there, so maybe they’d use the time apart from the world to develop a non-cr@ppy post-‘Ferment’ album.  At this point, that might be overly optimistic.
(“Judy Staring At The Sun”)

Grade: C-

Adam and Eve (1997)

In the beginning, Catherine Wheel created good music.  This is more like Armageddon.

Grade: D+

Wishville (2000)

Judy’s staring at bankruptcy.

Grade: D

2010: (Actually not that bad, I was just REALLY angry at them for fcking up my Y2K celebration) Grade: C

The Cardigans

First Band On The Moon (1996)

The lead singer’s voice I assume is supposed to be either seductive or cute, but it certainly doesn’t seduce me.  The cuteness factor is there only when she pitches her voice just so.  This is achieved for parts of “Lovefool”, enough at least for this album to be placed on one’s shelves…never to be taken out, of course.
(“Lovefool”)

Grade: D+

Cake

Prolonging The Magic (1998)

Interesting sound, this band has.  And some interesting lines, including those in the interesting minor hit “Sheep Go To Heaven”.  But the hooks just aren’t there in enough abundance to make up for the fact that they’re mainly saying nothing at all.  That’s only forgiveable when the hook-to-song ratio is undeniable.  Go ask Led Zeppelin.

Grade: C+

Tracy Bonham

The Burdens of Being Upright (1996)

I have no idea where she came from or for that matter where she disappeared to after this album.  That said, she does produce a fair number of decent songs here.  Her voice is a bit grating (think Geddy Lee-ish, only female.  On second thought, don’t think of that.  Ever).  The hooks, however, dig in well enough for that to be a tolerable nuisance.
(“Mother Mother”)

Grade: B-

The Breeders

Last Splash (1993)

So Kim Deal moves on to (hopefully) greener pastures, escaping the grasp of the royally annoying Francis The Black.  The hope? Greater commercial success while at the same time being able to flex her muscles for a change(for more than one track an album).  So she goes and writes a hit bigger than the Pixies ever had, “Cannonball”, a true hit single(“Monkey Gone To Heaven” never made as much of a Splash).  Great for her, I always liked her vocals in the Pixies, and maybe just maybe she kept Black Francis from going totally off-the-wall insane with his lyrics.  That said, the problem here is that there are precious few other moments where any evidence at all is found to support the supposition that she was “stifled” in her previous band.  The George Harrison of the early-to-mid 90’s, perhaps?
(“Cannonball”)

Grade: C

Blondie

The Best of Blondie (1981)

This kind of music (whatever friggin kind it is, I don’t really know) isn’t exactly my “thing”.  It reeks too much of extremely commercial pop.  I can appreciate some nice beats, though, and some occasionally fine lyrics.  Even a  mediocre band should get (or be able to get) a decent best-of put together after a set amount of albums.  This is a decent best-of.
(“Heart of Glass”)

Grade: B

Blink 182

Enema of the State (1999)

Usually I do not make hasty purchases based entirely on one song.  Actually, that’s not completely true…I have done it many a time, with very mixed results.  But I’m not on trial here!  Usually, if I DO make a hasty purchase based on one song, it’s a pretty d@mn good song.  So I’ll plead temporary insanity and contemplate tossing this in the garbage disposal.  It wouldn’t fit, but it’d be fun to try, I think.

Grade: D

2010: (Not completely unsatisfactory!!!) Grade: D+

Blind Melon

Blind Melon (1992)

Of COURSE the dancing bee is cute.  I won’t deny that any more than I’d deny liking ‘Babe’.  But unfortunately cute video plus cute sleeve plus a coupla good songs does NOT (or should not) equate to cult status, anyone’s death notwithstanding.  Shannon Hoon is part of an overblown, overhyped effort here, and that’s just the way it is.
(“Tones of Home”)

Grade: C+

Soup (1995)

Three years later, they’re back.  Did I say Shannon Hoon was dead on that last one???  Shame on me.  To quote a fairly macabre commercial from the early-mid 90’s, regarding the song “Legend Of A Mind”: Timothy Leary – “Hello, I’m Timothy Leary, and I’m not dead.” Caption – “Yet.”
(“Galaxie”)

Grade: C-

Bjork

Debut (1993)

Bjork’s appearance is similar to her music.  Almost entrancing, yet at the same time borderline ugly and/or weird.  So for me, she has to hit it right on the mark to connect.  Which she struggles to do once, on “Big Time Sensuality”.

Grade: D

Frank Black

Teenager Of The Year (1994)

Whatever happened to catchy-songwriter-with-meaningless-lyrics, by the name of Black Francis?  Is he just indulging himself here, or has he truly lost it?  Because if “Headache” is all he has left(and I suspect it is), then he should seriously consider a new line of work.  I mean, even with the Pixies he nearly ruined some perfectly good songs with some embarassing lyrics.  Think “Space(I Believe In)” for one.  Beware thee a musician with lots of riffs and no words, for once the well runs dry it can be pretty sad.  This surely is.

Grade: D-

Pat Benatar

Heartbreaker (1996)

This doesn’t salvage all of her hits from their respective crummy albums, and the ones it does salvage sound a bit dated, even silly, today.  Still, you can’t deny the pleasure (mild as it may be) that arises from the performance of some of her outside-songwriter material.  Call it a guilty, Abba-esque pleasure and listen at your own risk.
(“Love Is A Battlefield”)

Grade: B-

2010: (After a decade or so, you can listen to the songs again and ENJOY them) Grade: B

4/13/16: Hi there.  I’m going through my posts to make them look better, when they need it.  I was trying too hard when I wrote these music reviews; it’s somewhat comforting to see my edits being better written than my posts.  Generally.

Ben Folds Five

Whatever And Ever Amen (1997)

A mild-mannered, faintly wistful, perpetually cynical singer/songwriter is responsible for this rather boring display.  No fault of his own, I’m sure he meant no harm, and it isn’t altogether horrid.  But it’s the kind of thing that sounds dated a year after its release.

Grade: D+

Beck

Odelay (1996)

I enjoy and admire this man’s studio mastery.  I liked the one-shot “Loser” well enough, but never would have believed that he’d actually get to MAKE a second album, let alone have it be GOOD…the first track here is the strongest, and although it’s not “Loser”, it’s pretty d@mn hooky.  My only question/problem with the whole thing is, how many times can he get away with absolutely meaningless bullsh1t lyrics and make them tolerable with intriguing music?  “Loser” was pretty much as meaningless as you can get, but this album matches it song for song.  I mean, how can I like an entire album of Bono-in-October-esque lyrics?  Because he’s not trying for anything more, maybe?

Or because he’s too hooky and inventive musically for me to mock him?  At least, until the hooks run dry.  Then he’s meat.
(“Devil’s Haircut”, “Jack-Ass”)

Grade: B-

Belly

Star (1993)

I’ve heard these songs described as fairy tales, set to music.  That sounds beautiful to me, and for at least some of them it’s quite true.  Tanya Donelly certainly has some sort of gift for writing, and the songs she writes (all by herself, except for one) are pretty, enchanting, and hooky.  There isn’t a single great song here.  There isn’t a single bad one, either.
(“Dusted”, “Slow Dog”, “Feed The Tree”)

Grade: A-

2010: (Dreams that don’t fade with time…and “Feed The Tree” IS great) Grade: A

King (1995)

I used to hate this album, as much for itself as for the fact that it wasn’t Star-Part Two.  But I’ve outgrown that.  What we have here is a decent follow-up.  Tanya Donelly’s voice remains, but her songwriting skills are a bit fleeting here.  The best song on the album is co-written with another band member, and several others are as well.  Democracy in action?  The band gelling together?  Maybe.  Or maybe she just ran out of tunes after Star.
(“Super-Connected”)

Grade: B

The Beatles

Rubber Soul (1965)

Filled with pleasantness, harmony, and earnest singing, this mediocre album only rises above the level of generic pop nonsense on about half the tracks.  And most of those are overrated and not particularly close to the brilliance that this group (supposedly) possesses.  Exception to the rule – “Norwegian Wood”, which combines beautiful music with rather interesting lyrics.
(“Norwegian Wood”)

Grade: B-

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

Think of it as an inferior prequel to Abbey Road…which isn’t an insult since Abbey Road is a great album.
(“A Day In The Life”)

Grade: B+

Magical Mystery Tour (1967)

They keep getting better and better.  The second side is brilliant.

Grade: A-

The Beatles(The White Album) (1968)

Having somewhat conquered my fears of looking like a complete idiot by trying to grade The Beatles, when I sat down and listened to this double album for a while I wasn’t afraid to think that it sounded horribly mediocre, especially for the group that spawned it.  The best song on here was written by George Harrison.  Normally, enough said.  But that’s not fair to George.  He did perform quite nicely on Abbey Road, and he comes up with a good tune now and again.  At least on this album, he’s no weaker than the Lennon/McCartney team.  A lot of soft, pleasant cr@p with psychedelia and some soft, pleasant music.  Horrible by their standards, mediocre by mine.  
(“While My Guitar Gently Weeps”)

Grade: C+

2010: (What was I thinking?  Very good stuff…experimental, but that’s what made them great…strange, yet still catchy)  Grade: B+

Abbey Road (1969)

I’m at a bit of a loss to grade The Beatles.  I feel a bit of awestruck fear, as a fighter coming face-to-face with the best there is and knowing he doesn’t have a shot.  But, fighting through the panic, I manage to look at the songlist, rate every song, and compile it here for your reading pleasure and use.  Let me just say that I love the song suite that comprises most of side two.  It flows together seamlessly and beautifully.  The individual songs on side one are pretty much a 50/50 split…the kind of thing that usually gets a B+.  And that’s the WEAK side.  Granted, the song suite is rather short and the individual songs don’t linger on for very long before another one breaks through.  But this is definitely a pop music classic.  I’ve always preferred the Stones, but this album could hold its own with the Stones’ best.
(“Something”, “I Want You(She’s So Heavy)”, “Sun King”)

Grade: A

2010: (Brilliant, really…nothing’s perfect, right?) Grade: A+

The Beastie Boys

Licensed To Ill (1986)

Normally I find rap a bit tedious, overblown, and/or boring.  And when I say rap, I mean pop-rap…you know, the non-controversial stuff (e.g. “It Takes Two”, “Bust A Move”, etc.).  But this is a different story.  Irreverent good rhymes, good lines, good riffs…nice.  Since I STILL don’t like rap in general, I’m content but not blown away, “historical” as it may be in this case.
(“No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn”)

Grade: B-

2010: (A landmark album should get SOME respect…I guess.) Grade: B

Check Your Head (1992)

“So Whatcha Want”?  How about an album with more than one good song, Boys?
(“So Whatcha Want”)

Grade: D

Ill Communication (1994)

Three songs out of twenty.  Well, it beats ‘Check Your Head’.  But not by all that much.  “Sabotage” is the Boys at their most rocking, and it’s easily the best track on the album.  Then again, how can you NOT like a song with a singing dog in it? Ruff!
(“Sabotage”)

Grade: C-

Hello Nasty (1998)

GREAT-EST HITS…GREAT-EST HITS…
(“Remote Control”)

Grade: C

Bad Company

10 From 6 (1985)

A greatest hits package that has every right and responsibility to exist.  Every right, because it collects their hits.  Every responsibility, because none of their albums are worth owning on their own right.  This is a perfect greatest-hits band.  Good enough for a couple of songs per album, which after three or four albums starts to add up.  Their defining, shining moment of glory (really it is, even if that’s rather sad) is “Feel Like Makin’ Love”.  That’s here, along with such lesser-but-still-enjoyable songs as “Can’t Get Enough” and “Rock And Roll Fantasy”.  Their decline from decent to bad was pretty fast, so don’t count on a full-length album’s worth of enjoyment, but this is worth owning, and is in fact their only album worth owning.  I like it when they make it this easy to pad their wallets.
(“Feel Like Makin’ Love”, “Shooting Star”)

Grade: B+

2010: (Remember…this is their BEST…) Grade: A-

Fiona Apple

Tidal (1996)

Fine voice, no tunes.  She wrote it all herself, which I happen to admire.  But she’s not a very good songwriter, at least for my tastes.  I was momentarily smitten with “Sleep To Dream”, but that eventually wore off.  Then came the utterly mediocre “Shadowboxer”, which hit me right in the gut in repeated radio-dispensed doses (that’s a bad thing).  I found that the only way to relieve the pain was to turn the d@mn thing off.

Grade: D

Tori Amos

Crucify (1992)

Some decent writing, good (well, not bad) covers, and a nice vocal performance all add up to one halfway-decent effort.  The cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is mournful and beautiful, with the same power (if not power chords) of the original.
(“Smells Like Teen Spirit”, “Crucify”)

Grade: B

Under The Pink (1994)

No covers to save her this time out, she attempts to write them all herself.  Clearly, this woman is a flake.  But that’s not really the point.  Her mission is not to please the public, but to express her thoughts and emotions in her own way.  Both may be exceptional, but unfortunately that doesn’t automatically equal good art.  She hits the target a few times and meanders quietly and contentedly through the rest, taking it at her own pace.  Me, I wish she’d ditch the meaning, pour on the hooks, and try for pop superstardom.
(“God”)

Grade: C+

Alice In Chains

Facelift (1990)

“I Can’t Remember” “borrows” (nudge nudge…wink wink) a riff.  From where, you ask?  From “Man In The Box”, three tracks previous, that’s where.  Shame shame…if you’re going to rip off music, at least have the sense and common decency to rip off an old dead blues musician like everyone else.  “Put You Down”, too?  Sigh…not good, not good.  Normally, two very good songs guarantees at least a C/C+ when all is said and done.  But with filler this bad, it takes a moderately interesting track eleven to push it over the top.
(“Man In The Box”, “Sea Of Sorrow”)

Grade: C+

Sap (1992)

I’m not sure exactly what to say here…”Congratulations on showing your soft side, which isn’t really any better than your hard side”?  “Bravo on making your filler marginally more interesting”?  “Where’s the eject button”?  “I feel very sorry for the one good song here”?
(“Got Me Wrong”)

Grade: C

Dirt (1992)

I’m moderately amazed.  Where are the horrendously weak tracks?  How the hell did they write this?  It’s a little too heavy on the heroin quotient, sure.  But this is a solidly enjoyable album, with several transcendent moments to boot.  It has vocal AND musical hooks, and some fairly decent/mysterious lyrics.  Bravo, and thank you.
(“Them Bones”, “Down In A Hole”, “Would?”)

Grade: A-

2010: (Even better than I thought.  In retrospect, Layne Staley’s cry for help…and therein lies the power.  The riffs don’t hurt, either.  Brilliant display of desperation…RIP Layne) Grade: A

Jar Of Flies (1994)

Amazing.  Just as ‘Dirt’ was the unexpected progression from Facelift, this is the even more unexpected MAJOR progression from ‘Sap’.  Six out of seven songs kick in very nicely, and track seven is obviously just a throw-away, but still manages to generate a bit of interest.  Underrated, out-of-the-blue, one of the best albums of the year.
(“Rotten Apple”, “Don’t Follow”)

Grade: A

2010: (Well…the last track WAS intended simply as a bit of fun, so…) Grade: A+

Alice In Chains (1995)

You’ve just put out one of the best albums of ’94 (and probably the best album you’ll ever make), so what do you do?  Take your time to write a solid follow-up (e.g. Soundgarden post ‘Superunknown’), or rush something out to sell it while you still can, before you inevitably fade away with the rest of the “Seattle Sound”?  Yup, sounds about right.

Grade: C

2010: (I think I was too harsh…unbelievable disappointment, after all, generates unbelievable frustration) Grade: C+

Unplugged (1996)

Live albums, in general, are a good barometer for differentiating between a good band and a good studio band.  Stripped of their power and the aided-by-studio vocals of frontman Layne Staley, this performance is almost embarassing.  Power and/or melodic appeal without mechanical aid are indications of a good natural singer, and Staley displays neither here.  An extreme disappointment to me, and a waste of fine material.  I can’t pretend I even listened to the whole album more than once.  I don’t get paid for this, and my paranoia kept insisting it sucked.

Grade: D+

2010: (Horrible renditions of really good songs can’t destroy them completely) Grade: C+

Aerosmith

Aerosmith (1973)

Witness the first evolutionary steps of a middle-income man’s Led Zeppelin.
(“Dream On”)

Grade: C

Get Your Wings (1974)

Less stupid, more tuneful.
(“Lord Of The Thighs”, “Seasons Of Wither”)

Grade: B-

Toys In The Attic (1975)

I start this review project on this album because I have never actually heard all the songs on their debut, and have only listened to their second album once or twice. In future, albums of different bands may or may not be included in my reviews, depending on how comfortable I am with the material. Otherwise, it could be doing a band a great disservice if they’re better than I thought, or doing the consumer a great disservice if they’re worse. That being said, this is an album that you should buy if you like hard rock. Yes, the obvious songs appear later on compilations(they’ve got a small handful). But I’d rather own the original article, despite my affinity for greatest-hits packages, because it has some truly worthwhile material that might not be up to greatest-hits snuff, but which is very enjoyable to listen to in this context.
(“Sweet Emotion”, “No More No More”, “Round And Round”)

Grade: B+

2010: (I looked over the song list, listened to them again, and lo and behold…even better than I thought. I didn’t give Tyler’s lyrics enough credit the first time around. This rocks.) Grade: A-

4/10/16: Retcon info: Ignore the “start this…” section and the over-wordy parts. That should trim it down to about three lines.
Grade: A-

Rocks (1976)

Not the masterpiece some people consider it (I count four mediocre-at-best songs out of nine total), this is still a very good album. The reason is that the other five songs are well above mediocre, especially the multi-riff soft-to-hard (nice intro, guys) controlled chaos machine “Nobody’s Fault”. This would have made a great EP, and you can make it one. Just push “stop” (ha ha, inside joke) right after “Nobody’s Fault”.
(“Last Child”, “Nobody’s Fault”)

Grade: B+

4/10/16: Three things: Reading these now I get both a pleasant sense of nostalgia towards something well-meant and a cringe towards over-writing and just plain mediocrity. Three, I hesitate to criticize because some of my writing is still just as bad. Well, at least I’m not really trying anymore. You know, I don’t give a fck. IT’S AUTHENTIC. Grade: B+

Greatest Hits (1980)

Now THIS is a Greatest Hits album.

Not a single weak track, and they had plenty more to back it up with too. In fact I think the selection is a little off, with some songs not included that should be here. In fact part two I think the selection is, at fifth glance, a good deal off. This could have been much better than it is. But, that’s saying something, as it’s still D@MN good. They might have even been able to make a double album out of this. Oh wait…they do, eight years later. Anyways, this is a must-own for any hard rock fan that doesn’t mind some melody with the crunch.
(“Dream On”, “Sweet Emotion”, “Come Together”)

Grade: A

Gems (1988)

Posing on the back cover so confidently, you’d think they actually created something interesting and new(or at least vital) here. What they HAVE done is sat on their rich tushes and sucked every last worthwhile beat and riff from their catalog. I’m sure the Permanent Vacation fans of ’87 will eat this up and then promptly spit it out in horror…God no, a collection of REAL Aerosmith songs, not a song-doctor hack job. What’s next, a live double? The sad decline of a (once) really good band that should’ve fallen on their collective swords years ago.
(“Nobody’s Fault”, “Round and Round”)

Grade: B

2010: (Has aged more like bread than wine) Grade: B-

Pump (1989)

“…For five songs, everything loud and acrid about them just keeps on
coming–not even tune doctors can stave off the juggernaut. Of course, this band’s idea of a rock dream is also the traditional “Young Lust” and “Love in an Elevator”–OK as far as it goes, but I could do with more “Janie’s Got a Gun,” in which an abused teenager offs her dad…”
– Robert Christgau

I love that guy.
(“Janie’s Got A Gun”)

Grade: B

4/10/16: I cannot echo him, I can only hope to badly emulate him. Grade: B

AC/DC

Back In Black (1980)

When they’re REALLY on, the lyrics don’t seem quite so inane…
(“Back In Black”)

Grade: B-

2010: Having gone through my fascination with blatant sexuality and my subsequent disdain for blatant sexuality, I have come to the conclusion that at least they’re honest.  They want sex.  Who doesn’t?  Grade: B

Who Made Who (1986)

It’s not bad, but without “Back In Black” it’s not definitive.
(“You Shook Me All Night Long”)

Grade: B

311

311 (1995)

3-for-14 will give you a marginal backup career in baseball.  Music is more forgiving.

Grade: B-

3/16/14: 3-for-14 with no clear favorite is not “pretty good”.  If it’s above average that’s sad, but at least plausible.  Grade: C+

Transistor (1997)

Reviews have, at times, been completely re-written.  Why?  Cuz they stunk, that’s why.  If you don’t have anything inspirational to say…
(“Beautiful Disaster”)

Grade: D

Soundsystem (1999)

Virtually worthless, unless you cannot live without “Come Original”.  I can.

Grade: D-