Quick Hitters: A tad past their prime…

This edition’s spotlight is on some groups that were pivotal during the early 90’s grunge movement. However, I am going to focus on some of their work that was released post 2000. Yes, “Possum Kingdom,” “Far Behind,” and “Violet” will always go down as some of their most influential works, but they also produced some noteworthy tracks on their newer releases.

Toadies is a group that is mainly known for their efforts from their album Rubberneck. Not too many people besides their hardcore fans would be able to name very many of their songs besides the ones on that album. They produced some all-around good, gritty alternative. They hail from Texas and a southern feel is evident in their work. The track I’ve posted is “So Long Lovely Eyes” , which is off of their 2008 release No Deliverance, made a mere 14 years after Rubberneck came out. It’s a fun, fast-paced song that features plenty of grungey guitar riffs. Frontman Todd Lewis delivers a fine vocal performance. The energy and angst in his voice gives off the impression that he’s ready to kick somebody’s ass at any moment. The highlight for me is when the pitch change @2:38 that just follows a killer and under-appreciated bass solo (is there any other kind?!). The guitar takes the song in a different direction but it then it comes back to the original tone for the final chorus. Great song to get pumped up to.

Next up is Candlebox. I’m almost certain that anyone born before 1989 has some memory of heartbreak that  “Far Behind” best encompasses. Anytime they hear it, they remember that lonely summer night they were sitting up against their cavalier parked in a gas station pissed off after they just had gotten dumped…and that song came on. Anyway, their 2008 album Into the Sun has some quality offerings, most notably “Stand.” The song starts off eerily similar to the way that “You” did back in ’93. It goes in a different direction after that. The song features excellent guitar and exceptional vocals by Kevin Martin. It also features a high dose of the f-bomb, which fans of Candlebox have come to expect. Take a trip back to the 90’s with “Stand”

A lot of people don’t know this, but HOLE IS BACK! Well, they were back in 2010 anyway. Darling little Courtney Love, while having some highly questionable viewpoints, sure knows how to keep putting out that vintage grunge sound. “Skinny Little Bitch” received some radio play when their newest album first came out, but I was never too crazy about that song. I much preferred “Pacific Coast Highway,” which is more of a mid-tempo ballad. “Malibu” was always one of my favorite songs by them and this reminds me of that one.  It’s a downer for sure, but not every song has to carry a positive message. In fact, I’ve found that downer lyrics can actually have a calming and relaxing feel to them, which is quite contrary to the message that they carry.They are well-written and heartfelt for sure. See what you think, I’ve always liked this song and didn’t think it got the airplay it deserved.

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Album Review: Mer De Noms

A Perfect Circle’s debut album, Mer De Noms, took me far too long to purchase. I have always like them and Tool, the front-man Maynard James Keenan’s other band. Keenan will always be an iconic figure in the  rock industry. His first band, Tool, helped pioneer the grunge rock scene in the early 90’s. His next group, A Perfect Circle, provided a much more intelligent breed of music for the hard rock scene in the early 2000’s. If you’re not familiar with Maynard James Keenan, here’s a interview that gives a quick overview of him and his career (link). He’s always been a person of interest to me. He has a stage presence unlike anyone I’ve ever seen. This carries over into his interviews as well. A figure in music I would most closely compare him to would be Ariel Pink. Both appear to not have a whole lot in common with the average person but have a lot of interesting things to say. Onto the review…

1. The Hollow (8/10)-It gets the album going in the right direction. You get some excellent, pure sounding guitars provided by lead guitarist Billy Howerdel. Howerdel is also another figure worth looking into. His side project, Ashes Divide, has produced some very solid tracks. Keenan’s vocals are showcased rather well in this song. I looked at the lyrics and can’t really tell what this song’s message is. Vivid lyrics generally allow for more enjoyable listening, however. Sit back and enjoy the song for what it is, especially the best sequence that starts @ 1:33 and goes until the conclusion.

2. Magdalena (9.5/10)-My personal favorite off the album. It’s one of many of Keenan and Howerdel’s tracks that show off their ability to modify tone and take a song in a new direction. The song gets off to a great start with a  slow build-up and darker sounding intro. Then it gives you some whaling guitars that take place during the bridge to the chorus (@1:15). It combines very nicely with Keenan’s angst driven vocals. This part of the song is the highlight for me. There’s also a really good guitar solo @ 2:12 that transitions into the new tone that takes over for the reminder of the song. Once again, it’s Keenan’s vocals that stick out to me. Specifically, during the closing chorus when he screams out “One taste of you my Magdalena!” Check it out

3. Rose (6.5)-Not a bad song, kind of a softer, slower ballad. It’s unlike a lot of their other work. I do enjoy the fuzzy guitars alternating with the acoustic ones throughout the song (@0:49). What hurt my rating of the song was the long violin portion that goes on for the last 30 seconds or so.

4. Judith (9.5/10) This has been arguably A Perfect Circle’s greatest hit. Rightfully so, it is a masterpiece.The song is produced so well and Howerdel’s talent as a lead guitarist is displayed eminently here. The concluding part of the song is one of the most strong and meaningful endings that I have ever heard (starts beginning with the 2nd chorus and gets even better @3:12)   It contains some slightly controversial lyrics, which is my only knock on the song. I’m all for the group expressing their opinions on religion and what not; “Fuck your God” seems excessive. If you know that back-story on the message to this song, you see where Keenan is coming from.  It’s non-stop musical greatness right from the beginning and never lets up.

5. Orestes (4.5/10)-A little too slow and anti-climatic for my tastes. Not a whole lot happens during this song, other than one possibly noteworthy guitar solo, mainly a filler.

6. 3 Libras (5/10)-Another bland, and rather disappointing offering. This song has a little more going for it than “Orestes” did. There is some noteworthy guitar and vocals in the chorus but definitely not up to the level of tracks 1, 2, or 4, on the album. At this point, I’m wondering if the rest of the album is going to go the way of the first four songs, which were spectacular, or if there is a big drop-off

7. Sleeping Beauty (4.5/10) Ugh! It doesn’t get much better unfortunately. A much more sad retelling of a person’s inability to aid his significant other sleeping habits. Definitely a downer and a song that has me reaching for the skip button.

8. Thomas (5.5/10)-Decent, gritty intro. Reminded me of Soundgarden’s “Outsthined.” The comparison ends there. The song is progressive and has glimmers of the talent that A Perfect Circle possess but they never really get it firing on all cylinders in this one. The lyrics translate into what I believe could serve as a follow-up to the previous song. Keenan’s lyrics appear to speak of someone seeking forgiveness.

9. Renholder (NA)-Nothing to see here, folks. Just a sitar sounding instrument and some indiscernible Maynard lyrics.

10. Thinking of You (4.5/10)-Gets off to a very un-Keenan like pop-sounding into. It almost like they were trying to merge their style with something else which results in a Fiona Apple sounding conglomeration. It’s not that bad of a song, really, it’s complex if nothing else. It’s not what I come to expect when I listen to these guys, though. There’s one part that’s not too bad where Keenan repeats the title of the song many times and it gets followed by one final rendition of the chorus (@3:56). There’s something missing in that chorus that keeps this from being a good song.

11. Brena(3/10)-Simple, minimalistic intro kicks this track off. Doesn’t get really amount to much after that. A little too whiny and boring for me. I would say it’s the weakest song on the album

12. Over (3/10)-Not much to this closing track. Almost a novelty track that it to serve as a curtain call for the album.

As you may be able to tell, I was disappointed by this album, overall. I had heard “Judith” and some other tracks from their second album, Thirteenth Step, that I really liked many times. I figured that their debut album would contain many all-around good songs. What I got instead was 3 awesome songs amongst many others that didn’t really measure up. I don’t regret buying the album and I would recommend you give it a try yourself if you like the songs you heard on this post. Keenan also has another project called Puscifer that is worth checking out. Well I’m out.  Until next time, stay off the FM wavelengths!