Classic Album Review :: Placebo — Without You I’m Nothing

You know that song you heard somewhere and you really liked it but have no clue who it’s by and the internet is such that you cannot look it up and everything is horrible because you need to find that song? Yeah — that was me about 15 years ago.

The song that I could never find was Pure Morning. It is the first track on this not-punk album. Finding that out and purchasing the album brought me down a rabbit hole where I could never find the surface, but I also never wanted to find a surface. With deceptivly simple everything, this album is amazing.

Pure Morning has lyrics similar to a child’s rhyme. Of course, if you heard your child singing these words, you would be far from ecstatic at their choice of vernacular. The entire song appears to be about discovering ones sexuality while also discovering drugs. The title “Pure Morning” reflects the relief of discovering everything the night before. The act of reflecting on your actions and adoring every decision you made.

What did I mean by disceptivly simple? Look no further than track two. The guitar tuning is warped, the bass is full of exact slides that feel improvised but are very concise, and the drums are fast and loose. The vocalist confused me when I was younger. I couldn’t figure out their gender, neither by listening or by looking. That started my journey into the world of learning what exactly what gender is. Immediately, I learned that gender is a created term, and learned a lot of things about the existence of the LGBTQ+ world. Not that the band had lyrics that made me question everything, but the very existing of such people bending social norms in the ’90s intrigued me.deceptivelyWhat did I mean by disceptivly simple? Look no further than track two. The guitar tuning is warped, the bass is full of exact slides that feel improvised but are very concise, and the drums are fast and loose. The vocalist confused me when I was younger. I couldn’t figure out their gender, neither by listening or by looking. That started my journey into the world of learning what exactly what gender is. Immediately, I learned that gender is a created term, and learned a lot of things about the existence of the LGBTQ+ world. Not that the band had lyrics that made me question everything, but the very existing of such people bending social norms in the ’90s intrigued me.

Anyway, off the political stuff. That continues to be a sore topic for a large number of people, and delving down that rabbit hole will take me horribly off-topic from this fantastic album.

How would I describe the sound? Think Pixies meets Pink Floyd with a dance of The Clash. How? Pixies because they buck pop norms while also being pop. Pink Floyd because of the use of effects to not only add to a sound, but actually create a sound. The Clash because… well… there really is no reason. It was a proclamation that I made without putting too much thought into it. At the same time, it kind of fits because someone would have a difficult time making me ignore the obvious punk influence in the music. Yes, they are also a pop band. Maybe saying The Clash is too much of a departure, but leaving the punk aspect to just The Pixies feels like it ignores a whole facet of influence.

ANYWAY. I could go on circles all day speaking of influence, but there is no denying that the title track (Without You, I’m Nothing, track five) is a very Pink Floyd reminiscent track. On the next release (Black Market Music), David Bowie does a duet with the singer. As much as this is, by far, my favourite track on this album, that version of the song is perfect. In acknowledging that, it DOES NOT take from this version at all. It still contains one of the best soul crushing buildups in music that I have ever found. They literally go from minimal instrumentation to ALL the instrumentation in a matter of a few bars. To add to the finesse, it beautifully flows into the next track.

Fuck me, I could go on and on about this album, but most of it would just be repeating what I already talked about, OR it would just devolve into incohearent rambles that drone on and on for much longer than I would like them to. I mean, I have speant this long and I only bought up two songs, one of which I did no description for except saying that it is amazing. So, I will sign off on this review with a song that I didn’t talk about, but is equally amazing.

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Classic Album Review :: A Perfect Circle — eMOTIVe

I am breaking two promises I made to myself today! The first is that I would only do these once every calendar year. The second is that I would only review albums around 20 years old. After listening to this album the morning of writing these piece, I felt that it is underrated and ignored.

eMOTIVe by A Perfect Circle is one of, if not THE, most important albums to come out in my life. Between its cover of Imagine bringing the beautiful piece by John Lennon back to the modern times, or its reimagining of other contemporary anthems by bands like Black Flag and Marvin Gaye, it should not be as ignored as it has been since its release.

eMOTIVe is beautiful and haunting. A good potion of the tracks maintain an etherial guitar tone, allowing the vocals to pierce the music and driving their importance to the forefront. Some of the covers are simply reimagining of the original track in a different key, some completely break the mould and do something new. Prime example is “What’s Going On?” and its exploration of different sounds to subvert expectations of what the song could be. Even the most expressed fan of the song would be forced to hear it as a new listener, taking in the lyrics as someone who has never listened to the song before. This gives it new weight in the greater social scene.

There are two songs that really change the cemented pattern on the album. “Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie” is a track by Black Flag that sounds absolutely nothing like the original. I actually had a customer come into my record store and complain about the track. In the same breath, he asked about the original recording of very song that was playing, then argued with me for a few moments swearing that it was not the same. He then abdicated and claimed that Back Flag would be appalled with what they did to the song. I had to laugh, simply because APC changed it to something that continued Black Flag’s mission to make the upper class uncomfortable.

The second track that doesn’t quite fit is “Counting Bodies Like Sheep To The Rhythm Of The War Drums” which is an APC original. The original was taken from the song “Pet” from their last album called 13th Step. In that song, it is just a line. The reimagining is five and a half minuets of tortured wales and distorted drums. The chanting of the title lyrics almost tantric in their repetition. Overall, I will say this song is irritating and abrasive.

I love it.

It conjures the feel of an Orwellian dystopia, and the video supports that image. The drums are a strange combination of distorted stomps and slaps. The bass is overdriven and blown out. The vocals are mildly distorted and harsh. You are meant to feel uncomfortable. You are meant to question a greater part of society while you listen to it. From the two-minute point to very near the end there is a sound similar to a fly buzzing that does not let up. It is grating. It sounds violent. It is the very definition of what music can accomplish when used as an artistic vision. I am having a hard time describing what I feel, so I will post the video here.

Before watching, it is important to remember the political landscape of the early 2000’s. It does still echo what’s going on now, but it is very geared towards the Bush administration and the reactions towards media at that time. The parallels are evident for the current administration, but uses imagery of that time.

My point? This album is amazing and it deserves more attention from the mainstream public. I completely understand if you feel this album doesn’t deserve the praise I am giving it. It’s abrasive, shocking, grainy and strange. If you have it in the background, it can sound mildly bi-polar and as if it doesn’t know what it is, or what it is doing. The reason it is amazing is because it knows EXACTLY what it’s doing.

I neglected to mention how it goes from “Counting Bodies Like Sheep To The Rhythm Of The War Drums” to an ambient version of “When the Levy Breaks” by Jimi Hendrix. This whiplash-inducing transition perfectly encapsulates the point and purpose of this album. It demonstrates, in a track, how broken everything can be. Yet, it also shows that there is respite at the end if you choose to find it. There is a calm. There is a point.