For folks with a penis, John Mayer usually crops up as an artist who you’re a “homo” if you listen to. Not only do I disagree, but I feel that Mayer has gotten a short stick in terms of people’s general impression of him. His first major album, Room For Squares, broke him out into the mainstream, and it was based on a couple of singles that his entire future musical catalog was condemned to be frat guy acoustic rock for girls. This impression couldn’t be farther from reality. Mayer has produced up until this year three quality albums out of three. His latest, Battle Studies, might in fact be his simplest effort yet, but the quality overall might be his most consistent since Heavier Things. Continue reading
An album set to be released next Tuesday (11/17), Them Crooked Vultures self-titled debut album is quite possibly the most impressive debut album in the history of music (I’m serious), and with good reason. It hits the rock genre, grabs it by the balls, and doesn’t let go for the duration. It’s packed with strong, catchy songs, and is without question one of the best albums of the year.
If you are a fan of music, and you haven’t heard of Them Crooked Vultures yet, you must be living under a rock, underground, or are just downright dillusional. The three-piece band is comprised of three very well known musicians you might have heard of before. On the drums is some guy named Dave Grohl (I’m pretty sure he played drums in some other band before). I know him from his rock band the Foo Fighters, but there he plays guitar and is the singer. I wonder where he learned to play drums like this. Mystery. On guitar we have Josh Fromme, and if the name doesn’t strike you, his other bands name will. He’s the driving force behind criminally unheard of band Queens of the Stone Age. On bass is some guy named John Paul Jones, and at first I was wondering when the voice of CNN started playing bass. Before of after Field of Dreams? And then I realized I had mixed up the names, and that John Paul Jones is actually from some oldies band who hasn’t been relevant in years named after a large blimp or something.
In all seriousness, the band’s line-up is freaking stacked. Supergroups form every so often, taking members of successful bands and seeing if they can create a new, superhuman entity. Sometimes, they work well. A Perfect Circle created some fantastic music. Sometimes, they’re okay, as Audioslave produced some decent songs and a couple pretty good albums. And sometimes they just don’t work. Velvet Revolver was pretty terrible. This supergroup seems to have all their ducks in a row. They’ve been working on this project since 2005, and it really shows that they weren’t rushing into this for a quick payday, only to disappoint fans. They lined everything out, protected themselves by not rushing the creative process, and also by not neglecting or outright abandoning other projects. They took their time, and what they’ve given us is a fantastic example of great rock music.
The album kicks off with a series of strong, aggressive, in your face rock tunes, and they succeed in getting the blood flowing. “No One Loves Me & Neither Do I” is a great opener, and really sets the tone for the rest of the album. A good opening track is so important, and what Them Crooked Vultures do here is get your attention, and as the album progresses, they never relinquish. They blend a classic rock sound with a modern rock quality, and the results are phenomenal. It’s remarkable that on EVERY track, you can hear the influence of each respective musician. And each of them bring something unique to the table. Grohl brings that glue that holds the band together. He brings a quality in music that is criminally underrated, and it’s called being a well-rounded musician. He knows not only how to write good lyrics, but he can compose music to accompany those lyrics, and can play numerous instruments. I’m quite sure that an album of Dave Grohl strumming a chicken wing would be pretty bad ass. Here, he returns behind a drum set, and he has reinvented his style. In Nirvana (yeah, he was) he often times showed very little diversity on the drum set. Granted, the combos and feels he did exhibit were completely appropriate for the genre, but a lot of times, I always wondered if he could really cut loose. Here, I finally get my answer. Absolutely he can. He produces unique feels that never feel contrived or overtly complicated, but they sound crisp and tight. Grohl is on the short list for greatest musician EVER, and I’m not even kidding. The fact that he has produced such phenomenal work with 3 different (highly successful) bands proves that. “New Fang” is what I expected from Grohl here behind the kit, but his work on many of the other tracks proves that he’s more than capable of being a top level rock drummer. Ironically, as probably the most well-known member of this band, the songs themselves don’t “sound” specifically of Foo Fighters or Nirvana (some have more of a QOTSA or Zeppelin feel), and that’s another credit to Grohl’s greatness. He’s a chameleon, one that can maximize the musical output of anyone around him.
Josh Fromme is front and center with Them Crooked Vultures, as he does a lion’s share of the vocals. His voice isn’t, and hasn’t ever really been classically strong, but it’s got an eerie hook imbedded within it. He almost speaks in a chant, and the echoing and ambience effects add a mysterious layer to the songs. Listen to “Gunman”. Not only is his guitar work strong, but his voice is calm, soothing, clear, and evokes a sense of understanding. He’s comfortable within himself, and it shows.
John Paul Jones is from one of the biggest bands of ALL time, and that doesn’t require any exaggeration. His contribution to his newest band is that of the veteran. Jones has undoubtedly been around the block. And he’s getting up there in age, and is presumably financially secure beyond his wildest dreams. What he does is take the old school rock star mentality and apply it within a new rock frame of mind. He shows that not every musician who was in a legendary band wants to branch of and do nothing but subpar solo work. He shows that the creative juices of a great musician never die. Listen to “Elephants” and tell me that couldn’t be a Zeppelin song. I’m a classic rock fan, but my love for the genre has faded in more recent years in favor of bands who I can grow along with. The catalogues of Nirvana or Led Zeppelin aren’t getting any deeper. I’ve heard everything that has been released by those particular bands. But, for reasons specific to each band, they do not, or cannot produce new music that would be of the same quality the achieved in their heydey. Hell, even bands from the 90s like Soundgarden can’t even get their shit together to put out some new music for the fans, when there really isn’t any reason other than ego that they can’t.
What Them Crooked Vultures provide to Classic Rock fans is a wonderfully polished album that sounds like it could have pulled out of 1977. Listening to this album, you would never guess that this is this particular band’s FIRST ever album. Granted, the pieces of the band are seasoned and have all been through seemingly every music business scenario you could imagine. These 3 particular musicians are saavy enough, patient enough, and brilliant enough to know that they’ve got lightning in a bottle, and that the album they’ve given us is timeless, and will find ears to listen to it based on reputation alone. And they don’t disappoint. Even when the expectations are sky high, sometimes talented people can hit the right notes whenever the hell they feel like it.
Score: 7/10 (Good)
I’ve very recently fallen in love with a few new bands, and the Arctic Monkeys are one of them. I’d heard of them sparingly until the beginning of this last summer, when I spotted them on the Lollapalooza line-up on the day I was set to attend. As I exposed myself to the myriad of bands set to play that day, a few stuck out above the rest, and the Arctic Monkeys were one of the ones who really seemed to lead the pack.
So I picked up their first two major releases, “Favourite Worst Nightmare” and “Whatever You Say That I Am, That is What I Am Not,” and really started digging their entire catalog of songs. They had a punky, stripped down, in your face British style that was very recognizable and unique. Their lyrics were cheeky and fun, and their music was fresh and had a real smoothness amongst all the abrasive rhythmic punch. Continue reading
I enjoy good ol’ beer-in-hand Rock and Roll music, and unfortunately what we’re told is “Rock” these days (Nickelback, Hinder, etc.) seems to want to substitute straight-forward rock power and that beer-in-hand feeling with sappy, horrible lyrics, tacky musicianship and a nice cold wine cooler. Luckily there are bands out there who don’t shy away from what Rock and Roll should be, and this album is a throwback to those days when great rock music wasn’t only played on Classic Rock stations. Continue reading
Five years would come and go before Marcy Playground would release a follow-up effort to their 1999 album, “Shapeshifter.” Marcy Playground’s 3rd studio album, titled “MP3,” was highly anticipated by fans, despite the fact that the band would not deliver a tour to support or hype the album’s release. Couple that with the fact that there was virtually no radio air time for any of the four released singles and it’s easy to see why this album is almost virtually unknown to anyone who isn’t a die-hard Marcy fan. Continue reading
For years I have been billing Texas rock band …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, as “the best band that nobody but me listens to.” Luckily, there were hundreds of supporters as avid as I who convened on Logan Square Auditorium in Chicago Friday night for a stop on the bands tour to support their new album “The Century of Self,” creating another remarkably memorable concert experience I have drawn from this tragically under appreciated band.
Marcy Playground is probably (in my humble opinion) the single most underrated and unrecognized rock band from the ’90s. Their self-titled album debuted in 1997 and it’s first single “Sex and Candy” spent 15 weeks at #1 and managed to generate two other singles called “St. Joe on the Schoolbus” and “Sherry Frazier”. Despite the album’s platinum status Marcy Playground is now mostly a forgotten band remembered almost exclusively by the success of “Sex and Candy” which is an unfortunate fact because they really are one of the greatest bands around. You just don’t know it.
My single favorite thing about the album is it’s immense diversity. Members John Wozniak (Guitar, Vocals), Dylan Keefe (Bass, Back-ups) and Dan Reiser (Drums, Back-ups/no longer with the band) pulled off a huge variation of sounds ranging from modern-folk to psychadelic to hard rock, and they pulled it off well. Extremely well.
Despite having a very diverse sound, it’s all mellow and soothing yet still extremely blissful. John Wozniak’s lax vocals complement his creative lyrics perfectly. And the lyrics are another great thing about the album. “Poppies” for instance tells the story of how opium came to be. “St. Joe” tells about John’s wistful childhood. One of my personal favorites, “One More Suicide” tells a depressing tale of love gone horribly wrong.
Usually, when doing album reviews I talk about the good and bad songs. The thing is, I’ve looked with a very critical eye and still can’t find any bad songs on the album. “Opium” is probably the least impressive song but that’s about it. And the only thing that really keeps it from being as great as every other song on the album is it’s overly lethargic sound and the overall depressing mood it presents listeners. Even so, it’s a great song.
Of all the other songs on the album, my personal favorites are “Ancient Walls of Flowers”, “A Cloak of Elvenkind”, “Sherry Frasier”, “One More Suicide”, “Dog and his Master”, and of course the album’s most popular hit “Sex and Candy”. The latter-most listed, “Sex and Candy”, was easily the album’s strongest hit but some of the others listed are way better, just not as recognized.
- Sex and Candy
- Ancient Walls of Flowers
- Saint Joe on the Schoolbus
- A Cloak of Elvenkind
- Sherry Frasier
- Gone Crazy
- One More Suicide
- Dog and his Master
- The Shadow of Seattle
- The Vampires of New York
Marcy Playground’s debut self-titled album is a great gem that deserves a listen from anyone who grew up in the ’90s. It’s one of my favorite albums and has been for several years. Marcy Playground’s music has a timeless quality that’s sure to please just about anyone even today, ten years after it’s release. Check it out.
Overall: 9.3/10 (Amazing)
Lyrics: 9.5/10 (Inspirational, clever, and from the heart)
Music: 9.5/10 (Smooth and calm, yet invigorating at the same time)
Entertainment Value: 9.0/10 (It’s ten years old, and I still find it to be fresh and unique)