Classic Album Review :: The Presidents of the United States of America

When people talk about pop music from the 90’s, often they bring up bands like Nirvana, or Alanis Morissette. My mind goes directly towards TPofUSA. They are the only band that I don’t find annoying that finds the absurdity of that decade.

The album opens with a song about wanting to pet a cat. You know an album is going to be something special when a band can earnestly write a song in that vane and keep is respectable.

Really, the song Lump is the one I wish to highlight. It combines the feel of classic punk, and the lyrics are very cynical. It’s not too often you can find a song about falling in love with a person you know is bad news, as the narrator. The bit that makes it truly special, in my eyes anyway, is how the subject remains lovable regardless of what is said.

There is a chance that I am just reading far too into this song.

I am going to post a live version of this song. Mostly because seeing them play this song is far more impressive than the song sounds initially. The drummer is very good, and the recording does not do justice. Also, saying that there is no bass player is different from seeing that it’s true.

Classic Album Review :: Cardigans — Gran Turismo

Every once-in-a-while, I listen through my music library and wonder how people don’t pay attention to albums.

This is one of those albums.

It straddles the line between being pop gold and being depressing as hell. Something about it is unsettling. The use of synthesizers to fill in the low end leaves the album strongly in this minor chord valley where everything is awkward yet somehow beautiful.

This is far from the biggest album this band released. First Band on the Moon had the single “Love Fool” which got them a ridiculous amount of attention. This band experimented a lot with a take on the almost lounge jazz sound from the ’60s. On this album, they seemed to stray far from that dystopian and haunting sound, instead opting for a journey into almost electronica. They keep the bubble gum pop sound they cultivated, just added this layer of darkness that the ’90s did so very well.

Of course, the song best known off this album is also their second most known song ever. “My Favourite Game” follows the tried-n-true 4-chord structure, but with a twist. The chorus launches the listener into a dark hole, and this song actually works brilliantly as an example of the entire album. Complete with awkwardly placed lyrics, melodic shots, and a tradition but distorted structure.

I recommend this album highly, but everything they did is gold. Earlier albums are very lounge jazz, as I mentioned above, but later albums journey further into a darker void and explore what is possible with traditional pop. Also, this band has this awkward obsession with doing Black Sabbath covers in non-traditional ways. It’s always fantastic, and worth the adventure to find all two or three that were recorded.

In Summation: this album is well worth remembering. I recommend it highly, and very much recommend looking at the whole catalogue.

Classic Album Review :: Stabbing Westward — Darkest Days

I might be wrong: I think everyone forgot about this album. I find it strange because this album is like a strange radio-friendly version of early Nine Inch Nails mixed with Bush X. It is both accessible and hard-hitting. I do not have it in my pantheon of constant rotation, but it is a very welcome addition to my library.

The album opens with a haunting soundscape, very mechanical and broken. The bass then kicks in driving a simple 4/4 riff while bells chime overtop. It is incredibly haunting, even if it is simple in execution.

The coolest part for me is that the vocalist starts by singing in almost a whisper, only to crecedo when the music does. And how it does! The opening track is in my top 10 opening tracks for demonstraiting the full capability for a band. Nothing is very from a skill perspective, but it is very impactful and hard-hitting.

One of the last lines of the first track (everything I touch I break) gets repeated over and over in the second track. Not in an “I’m 13 and know everything” kind of way, but more that dark and brooding way that Deftones does — point out the horrible in people and exploit it. The kind of angst that never really comes off as whining, but more like that expression of a soul done by someone who has actually seen some shit. The kind of writing that we all wished we were capable of in high school, tried, but came off as spoiled children instead of creating the portrait that we were trying to express.

Have I mentioned that the late nineties, in particular ’97 through 98, is my favourite moment in music? I do not know what was going on in society, but everything was perfect. From Beautiful Midnight by Mathew Good Band to Rabbit In Your Headlights by UNKLE came out right around the release of this fantastic album. I have gushed about the atmosphere of the former, and I plan on writing something on the latter in a bit, but that year is peppered with genre-defining moments of all forms.

Anyway, I have gushed enough. I know that I did not go further into specific instrumentation, as I normally do. This album is better defined through the overall feel, not to say the individual parts do not matter. For a proper breakdown of the instruments, all I can say is nothing special happens and that actually makes it better. Give it a listen. You’ll know what I mean.