90’s Albums that Refuse to Age: Part 13

220px-DMB_-_Before_These_Crowded_Streets

Album: Before These Crowded Streets

Artist: The Dave Matthews Band

Release Year: 1998

 

 

The Dave Matthews Band was one of the artists that came out of the mid-90’s singer/songwriter comeback. Along with bands like Counting Crows, Hootie and the Blowfish, and Sheryl Crow the Dave Matthews Band brought back an emphasis on the songwriting and musicianship that was the antithesis of the grunge movement that ruled the early half of the decade. While a number of the bands memorable hits came from their album Crash in which the title track is a staple of any mid-90’s playlist, Before These Crowded Streets highlights the diversity and musical prowess of the band.

DMB was a band that I initially liked and then found boring when I listened past their radio hits. It wasn’t until a few years later that I gained a newfound appreciation of the music and the feel that the band puts out. Any metalhead can tell you that you cant be “That” guy all the time and sometimes you just need something to chill out too that is not loud and abrasive. Sometimes you need to expand your musical horizons to something that some may find odd or outside your understanding. 

DMB manages to fit a strange yet needed niche in the musical landscape. They provide a soundtrack that can be upbeat, sorrowful, swooning, and floating. Composed of an odd mix of musicians including the standard guitar, bass, drums center and add the dynamics of an electric violinist and a horn player. The Dave Matthews Band set itself apart not only in the tonality produced by the combination of instruments but also the level of musicianship which they brought to the fore. Dave Matthews himself is a great guitarist and songwriter whose guitar parts make your fingers rebel when trying to learn. 

The albums tracks cover a broad spectrum of moods and tones. From the upbeat yet floating opener “Pantala Naga Pampa” to the moody slow closer “Spoon” the musical canvas is filed with subtle imagery and varying dynamics. There were a few singles released from this album but they didn’t manage the mainstream success of the tracks from The aforementioned Crash album. That is not to say that the songs were not strong musically or lyrically but it does highlight the shift in focus of popular music from the strange stew of the mid-90’s to the more pop dominated latter years of the decade. 

While the pop starlets, boy bands, and Nu Metal were the powerful force in the late 90’s, The Dave Matthews Band managed to maintain a large loyal fanbase and continue to produce albums of good quality today. Before These Crowded Streets is one of the strange offshoots of popular music that was present but ultimately got lost in the shuffle of the musical landscape in 1998 but the album still holds up today. 

Standouts on the album include the upbeat “Rapunzel” which has excellent drum work from Carter Beauford working sonically interesting fills into the bits of the song not filled with double stops. Frontman Dave Matthews manages to write playful love songs with different feels throughout the album. 

“The Last Stop” puts a middle eastern feel to good use with both the music and vocals following a flowing open motif that brings images of sandy deserts and blowing winds to mind. The lyrical and musical melodies intertwine throughout a good portion of the song but stray enough to not feel like the entire song is made up of a single theme.

“Stay (Wasting Time)” is another playful song that spins a wonderful narrative of affection over an upbeat poppy musical grounding that highlights the horn section. This song shows the ability for the band to produce radio friendly songs while maintaining their unique style. Another song that makes good work of the airy string/brass combo in the pre-chorus helps to sell the imagery of a hot day of hanging out with your significant other outside on the stoop.

“Crush” is quite possibly my favorite song on the entire album. This song brings elements of jazz and showcases Dave Matthews playing an electric guitar which is a rare stay from his solid acoustic guitar work. This song always gets me in the ‘feels’ with its spinning chorus vocal line and laid back groove track that shows the strength and timing of the rhythm section. The lyrics speak of longing and love that is often felt in the intense beginnings of a relationship. 

“The Dreaming Tree” is a slower song with a serious message. Harkening back to the jam band roots and environmentally conscious minds of the band, the song narrates an early warning of global warming as well as the effects of industrialization on the resources of the earth. The song was a strong warning about the often overlooked impact of human interaction that causes such drastic change. The narrative shows how, lyrically, Dave Matthews is both a man of his time as well as a man ahead of his time in regard to a social conscious that needs to be heard.

Before These Crowded Streets stands up musically 20 years later as the themes of love and loss are always current. Often albums from the 90’s get dated purely by their lyrical content and themes but this album manages to remain fresh and prescient in the face of a changing world that manages to still deal with the same struggles that it did two decades ago.

Musically the album also continues to remain fresh. Great songwriting hardly ever ages when it defies the genres and popular trends of the time when it was originally released. While a majority of the acts of the time that shared a similar vein of music have passed to the ‘nostalgia act’ circuit, DMB manages to continue to draw huge crowds and demand as their music transcends the constraints of the musical times they shared with other acts.

This album is great when you need something to fill in the background while concentrating on a project. It is great when you need something to relax to. It is great when you want something to listen to but are tired of the usual fair in your playlist rotation. It’s just a great album for all environments and moods. This is why Before These Crowded Streets is a 90’s album that refuses to age. 

Advertisements

Musical Roadmap: Part 11

While maintaining a steady diet of metal and punk rock during my teens I also wandered off into different territories of music. Aided by my ever growing appetite for needing something new to listen to as well my father’s musical influence I began looking farther outside the realm of the heavy and anti-authoritarian music that was my core and found stranger and greater things out there.

When I was 16 my Dad and I moved out of my school district and instead of changing schools I decided to walk to school every day. Something roughly 5 miles gives someone a lot of time to think and I listened to music on my long strolls through all kinds of weather. I can factually say that I walked 5 miles to school in the snow, uphill both ways. I loved listening to tunes because it gave me something to focus on outside of my wandering teenage thoughts of girls and school. 

One regular tape (this was back before CD’s were accessible to me and a tape walkman was still infinitely less expensive than a portable cd player) that was always in rotation was a compilation album, The Very Best of Grateful Dead. Now some of you may be wondering how I could be a metalhead and stand to listen to the classic rock/jazz combination that the Dead produced, the answer is simple. Great. Fucking. Songwriting. 

Through the Grateful Dead and others of their ilk I found the importance of songwriting. Not just from the perspective of something catchy and fun but also from the view of the craft itself. If you listen to almost any Grateful Dead song you will hear musicianship at its finest. No small feat considering the copious amounts of drugs that the members were infamous for taking. The Dead took me down a rabbit hole of music that expanded the mind and the ears. Even listening today I can hear new things all the time. Thankfully the technology we have now allows for this with higher quality audio versions of the songs as well as higher quality speakers, headphones, and audio equipment. 

This compilation spreads over about two decades of the band’s career with many songs coming from the earlier days between 1970-1976 with the most recent song being 1987’s “Touch of Grey” which I would have to say was my first actual exposure to the band through the music video being on MTV. Styles range from rock to jazz, fusion to country but the combination of songs written by various members of the band manage to come together in a good representation of their overall work and feel.

I am able to proudly confess that I was a musically weird kid in high school and managed to have a circle a friends that spread the spectrum of my musical tastes. We were a tight knit group of nerds, band geeks, musicians, and artists that liked what we liked, stood up for each other, and didn’t care what anybody else thought. If anything, I think we managed to sum up the philosophical standpoints of our musical input.

I remember I was listening to the radio on my walkman while delivering papers on my route the day that Jerry Garcia died. They announced it on the air and then played a few songs back to back. It was an odd day considering the hippies (if you can call them that in the mid 90’s) all knew and admired him. Music really hasn’t been the same since at least in my head.

vbAlbum Highlights:

“Truckin’” a moderate shuffle tune that you can chill or dance to. The Dead were great combiners of genre’s and feels and this song kicks off the album with a upbeat song musically, however; listen to the lyrics and you get a different story.

 

“Touch of Grey” as I mentioned earlier this was my first exposure to the Dead through MTV. The video for the song was always interesting because the band eventually turns into skeleton puppets of themselves throughout. Lyrically the song touches on the changes in your life with age as well as the cynicism that you tend to gain with experience but ties it all together with a sentiment of just going with the flow.

“Casey Jones” how can you resist singing a lyric like “Driving that train, high on cocaine”?

“Uncle John’s Band” this song comes from one of the Dead’s best albums and speaks to the communalism and search for joy in difficult times that their generation faced at the end of the late 1960’s.

“Box of Rain” a slower tune in the catalog but that does not make the song any less great. The harmonized vocals at the end of each phrase showcases the vocal ability of all of the members. Mainly sung by Bob Weir, there is a smoothness to the lyric singing that puts you at ease.

“Ripple” every now and then you find a song that keeps changing meaning over the years and seems to speak to specific events in your life. “Ripple” is one of those that age along with you and stick around like a good friend reminding you of old times but is there for the current ones as well. The lyric “There is a road, no simple highway, Between the dawn and the dark of night, And if you go no one may follow, That path is for your steps alone” gets me pretty much every time. 

The Grateful Dead opened doorways in my mind. Doorways that I did not use drugs to find even though the stigma of anybody listening to the Dead are burnouts and potheads. The path to where I am now in live would be missing a nice stroll around a lake without the Grateful Dead and for the easy going and musically enlightening elements of their music. You don’t have to be stoned to enjoy the music you just have to be in the right mindset. These days if I feel too bogged down in the minutia of life I will throw on this album and sit back. 

Until Next time… Keep listening!

jerry-garcia-live-at-the-mars-hotel-joshua-morton

Throwback Soundtrack- 1: Nu Metal

I’ve been toying with the idea for a while of creating playlists to post blogs about so that the experience on this site is not one dimensional. However, as anybody who has ever put a playlist or mixtape (back in the lo-fi cassette days) together, it is not an easy feat. Like John Cusack’s character Rob said at the end of the movie High Fidelity, “the making of a good compilation tape is a very subtle art.  Many do’s and don’ts.  First of all, you’re using someone else’s poetry to express how you feel.  This is a delicate thing.”

That being said I’m trying to put a lot of thought into both the songs that represent a certain genre, while not entirely enslaving myself to the popular hits of the era. There is also sequencing of the playlist which any great artist or producer will tell you is one of the key things that can make or break an album. You want something at the beginning that is familiar and grabs attention, but you don’t want to have an hour or more of songs that just punch you in the nuts either. 

Many rules, many thoughts, and many tempos and feels combine to make a playlist a whole and cohesive thing. Hopefully I can manage to put together something that you, the audience of this site, will enjoy. On the site I will be posting the songs in order and a little blurb about each one. I will also be incorporating a new feature where I will link these posts to a corresponding playlist on Spotify so that you can listen to these playlists and even save them if you want to for repeated enjoyment. 

Well… Here goes nothing…

Since there were a great many of people who read and enjoyed my Top 5 Nu Metal Albums post I thought this would be a good jumping off point. What follows is a cultivated list of songs that span the timeframe of the genre from various acts that were both immensely popular as well as some that are more cult favorites. The following playlist covers over 2 hours of songs that may be familiar to you, but also (hopefully), something new for you to discover.

If you like the songs or want to listen to the playlist you can find it at the link at the bottom of the post.

  1. 220px-Korn_follow_the_leaderKorn- “Got the Life”

Korn were one of the bands at the forefront of the Nu Metal genre. “Got the Life” Is punchy from the jump with a groove and upbeat heaviness supplied by David SIlveria’s drum pattern. A heavy song that kids could connect to as well as ‘pogo’ to at shows serves as a good track to a playlist.

220px-Deftones_-_Around_the_Fur

2. Deftones- “My Own Summer (Shove It)”

No Nu Metal playlist is complete without at least one early Deftones track. The lead song off of the sophomore album Around the Fur shows the moody and the heavy of the band at the time. While they did not find their ‘sound’ until their third album White Pony,  the band put out a solid dynamic album as their second release.

3. Limp Bizkit- “Break Stuff”220px-Limp_Bizkit_Significant_Other

Limp Bizkit took the heaviness of metal riffs and combined it with hip hop lyrics to forge a defining sound of Nu Metal bands that followed. “Break Stuff” is a high octane song that makes you actually want to get up and move. Mosh pit or pogo, you could do either to this song.

220px-Slipknot_-_Slipknot2

4. Slipknot- “No Life”

Slipknot came on the scene out of nowhere and brought a heaviness that was not present in a lot of the rap/metal bands that encompassed a lot of the Nu Metal genre. “No Life” is one of the few songs where Corey Taylor brings a rap feel to the verse lyrics. The music has a hoppy beat that is energetic and provides a dissonance that Slipknot has become known for.

5. Taproot- “Poem”220px-Welcome_-_Taproot

Self motivational and a good closure song for a lot of people. The song put Taproot on the map in the Nu Metal scene and offers a mixture of heaviness that is poppy enough to just jam to. I can never get through the song without getting into it and singing the chorus as loudly as possible.

220px-SystemofaDownToxicityalbumcover

6. System of a Down- “Chop Suey!”

SOAD had a decent amount of success with their debut album but Toxicity managed to provide a more pop friendly sound to the weird song structure and lyrical content that made System stand out in the first place. “Chop Suey!” Should be a staple song in any Nu Metal playlist.

7. Creed- “What If”220px-Human_Clay_Cover

I know a lot of people will say about this one, “Creed, really?” Yes, I have pointed out my affinity to this song as well as the guitar work of Mark Tremonti in the past and regardless of how you feel about the band (Creed could be considered the Nickelback of the early 2000’s) this is quite possibly their heaviest songs. A little different from the hip hop/metal mix of a majority of Nu Metal acts, Creed managed to also create another sub genre within the movement that allowed the more rock oriented acts to get some attention as well.

220px-Seether-Disclaimer8. Seether- “Fine Again”

A little slower of a song here. Seether were more of a post-alternative band that came out in the time of the Nu Metal craze. While they have always stayed in a more rock oriented format this song fits within the timeframe and popularity of similar Nu Metal acts which is why it ends up on this list.

 

9. Disturbed- “Fear” 220px-TheSickness

Disturbed came on the scene and changed a lot of the dynamic of the Nu Metal movement. While eschewing the hip hop elements of the vocal the band managed to utilize sequencers and other hip hop associated instruments into their sound. Dave Draiman’s vocal nuances set the band apart and the band has proven over time that they can consistently produce heavy and commercially viable music.

220px-Godsmack_Awake10. Godsmack- “Greed”

While Godsmack is more of a hard rock band and have proven to be more so over the ensuing years, they came out at the height of the Nu Metal movement with their debut album and had a major hit with their tribal sounding “Voodoo”, but their Sophomore album managed to produce steady rockers that put them solidly in the pack of Nu Metal acts that have remained popular long past the lifetime of the genre.

11. Nonpoint- “Your Signs”Nonpoint_Development

While widely overlooked by the masses Nonpoint have managed to secure a loyal following and have produced a number of solid records since their debut. “Your Signs” is off of their overshadowed sophomore album and remains one of my favorite songs of the time.

Linkin_park_hybrid_theory12. Linkin Park- “Forgotten”

While their entire debut album is pretty much a greatest hits package, Linkin Park managed to outlive and quickly distance itself from the Nu Metal genre. While being one of the defining acts that coupled hard rock riffs, rapping vocals and a dedicated DJ, they managed to show their greater musicianship as the lifetime of the band extended. The loss of Chester Bennington was a huge blow to anyone who listened to the music of the early 2000’s and “Forgotten” is one of my favorite songs on the debut.

12. AudioSlave- “I Am The Highway”220px-Audioslave_-_Audioslave

On paper Audioslave did not seem like a band that would work. One of the titan frontmen of the Grunge movement teamed with the politically charged musicians that made up one of Rap Metals biggest bands, sounds awful.. But instead it ended up being awfully good. While maintaining their signature groove and abrasiveness of Rage Against the Machine, Chris Cornell’s song crafting ability is very apparent and I think influenced a lot of the band’s best songs. “I Am the Highway” is a slow burner but heartfelt and the vocal performance is underscored but the subtleness of the music.

220px-ChevelleWonderWhatsNext14. Chevelle- “Send the Pain Below”

Chevelle had a major hit with “The Red” and their entire debut album is a great listen even today. “Send the Pain Below” provides the heaviness and openness of lyrics that both while being cryptic, can be interpreted by the listener to apply to their own lives. 

 

15. Cold- “Bleed”220px-Cold_-_13_Ways_to_Bleed_on_Stage

Slowing down the tempo quite a bit “Bleed” showcases a debut from Staind’s Aaron Lewis on the chorus. Both Cold and Staind were signed by Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst and managed to make a decent impact on the Nu Metal genre with more melodic and dark lyrics and feel. While expressing the woe’s of depression Scooter Ward manages to also speak to how the power of music can help you get through the difficult times.

220px-Shadow_zone16. Static-X- “The Only”

Coming from Static-X’s third album Shadow Zone, which is the most mainstream friendly album in their catalog, “The Only” highlights a lot of the elements that made Static-X such a huge act in the Nu Metal genre. From samples to the heavy groove of the band this song is one of the few that managed to show a heavy and simplified version of the band. Not within their signature “Evil Disco” wheelhouse, this song manages to show the potential the band had as well as the depth of Wayne Static’s songwriting ability.

17. Flaw- “Whole”220px-Flaw_through_eyes

Largely unknown outside of a devoted fanbase, Kentucky’s Flaw managed to produce some solid emotional Nu Metal. While health issues has sidelined the band at various times, the band managed to recently get some national attention by being featured and pointed out by Stephen Colbert on his show. “Whole” gives you a preview of the dynamics that the band manages to make great use of throughout their music.

220px-Spitalbumcover18. Kittie- “Brackish”

Canada’s Kittie managed to come in and not only show that metal is not a genre purely for the guys but also managed to kick them in the nuts with hard music while doing it. While their debut album didn’t show a lot of the songwriting ability that they proved on later albums, there were some solid songs that showed promise. “Brackish” combines some heavy riffs with some great clean vocals on the chorus that are layered over fast rap like lyrics.

19. Marilyn Manson- “Mechanical Animals”mechanical animals

Here we are at the halfway point of the list. Marilyn Manson personified one of the things that the Nu Metal movement encompassed which was something for your parents to fear and misunderstand. “Mechanical Animals” is one of my favorite Manson songs of this era. Sluggish in pace it manages to provide a good emotional performance and a thoughtful lyrical path for the Shock Rocker.

Godhead-Evolvercover20. Godhead- “Far Too Long”

Keeping with a good moderate paced midsection to the playlist is Godhead’s “Far Too Long”. While not widely popular Godhead managed to write solid heavy songs and combined some goth elements to the Nu Metal genre.

 

21. Motograter- “Down”220px-Motograter_album

Long before Fiver Finger Death Punch was a regular on the active rock charts singer Ivan Moody fronted the band Motograter. Heavy and dark music provided the perfect platform for Moody’s signature ability to go from rough scream to powerfully sung vocals. “Down” is a mid-tempo rocker that gives a preview of what Mr. Moody was capable of.

220px-TheEndOfThingsToCome22. Mudvayne- “Not Falling”

Mudvayne was the strange painted monsters of Nu Metal. Bursting on the scene with the heavy and relatable “Dig” they soon became an MTV staple. “Not Falling” from their Sophomore album shows the heaviness, the insane musical ability, and the range of the band. While they quickly ditched their space alien look after the release of the album, “Not Falling” proved to be a hit and a fan favorite, even appearing on the soundtrack for the horror film Ghost Ship. 

23. Papa Roach- “Born With Nothing, Die With Everything”220px-Papa_Roach_-_lovehatetragedy

Papa Roach was one of the biggest bands of the Nu Metal movement as they were one of the best examples of the marriage of rap and metal. Their big hit “Last Resort” is a staple of any Nu Metal playlist but I decided to go with a song off of their second album. This song shows the transition of the band from the rap/metal of their debut album to the hard rock/punk rock energy of their next couple of releases.

220px-Mega_Kung_Fu_Radio24. Powerman 5000- “Neckbone”

Nobody really knew about PM5K prior to their Nu Metal “Action Rock” album Tonight, the Stars Revolt, however, the band had a debut album that was far more groove oriented than the hard upbeat rock of their sophomore album. “Neckbone” is a groove heavy hard rocker that was a standout of their early years. The only time I saw the band live was on one of Korn’s earliest tours and I loved the groove that they brought to the heavy metal genre.

25. A Perfect Circle- “Judith”220px-A.perfect.circle.mer.de.noms

A straight gut punch is the only way I can describe this song. APC bust out on MTV being somewhat an enigma. Anybody could recognize Tool’s Maynard James Keenan on vocals but the rest of the musicians were relatively unknown by the larger audience. The guitarist was Tool’s guitar tech, their drummer for the album was studio great Josh Freese and the bassist was a female?! Judith is one of the few heavy songs on the Mer De Noms album but it still rocks and good luck trying to match Maynard’s lung capacity on the chorus. 

220px-Saliva_every_six_seconds26. Saliva- “Your Disease”

Saliva was one of the more rock orientated bands in the Nu Metal movement. They managed to be a songwriter’s hard rocking version of the time with frontman Josey Scott’s ability to write catchy, heavy songs one of the things that made the early incarnation great. While the band has went through lineup changes and has been operating without the original singer, the early work manages to still hold up almost two decades later.

27. Staind- “For You” 220px-Staind_Break_the_Cycle

Aaron Lewis and company managed to be one of the most emotionally heavy bands of the Nu Metal. Dysfunction was the emotional enema that the generation needed at the time but the band’s second album Break the Cycle managed to let out the rage in a cathartic way. “For You” was an anthem for any teenager at the time that did not know how to communicate with parents that they felt did not understand them. 

220px-Home_(Sevendust_album)_coverart28. Sevendust-“Licking Creme”

Sevendust is a workhorse band that has a devoted following that they have built and maintained largely through touring. The band released to great albums in the time frame of the Nu Metal movement and received moderate airplay for a few songs in that time. While infinitely heavier than a lot of Nu Metal acts, the band managed to write some catchy songs with great vocals. “Licking Creme” showcases Skunk Anansie’s Skin on the vocal duet. This song could have been a huge hit and opened America up for Skunk but unfortunately the video was banned in the US by MTV.

29. Spineshank- “Transparent”220px-Spineshank_The_Height_of_Callousness

Not fitting within the rap/metal mold of the Nu Metal genre, bands like Spineshank and Static-X managed to bring a heavier element to the time and were lumped into the genre by sheer timing of popularity. Markedly different from their debut album Strictly Diesel, Spineshank’s second album The Height of Callousness managed to bring a heavier version of the band that also added elements of industrial music to the mix. “Transparent” is the last song on the album but in no means a filler track… More like a killer track.

220px-Trapt_album30. Trapt- “These Walls”

Most people know the band Trapt for their song “Headstrong” which garnered fairly heavy airplay in the day, but “These Walls” is a sound song in regard to the craft of the song itself. A more melodic heavy flair to the track makes it stand out in my head compared to their more popular hit.

31. Strata- “The Panic”220px-StrataAlbum

Strata fits into a genre I like to call “Groove Metal”. Infinitely more emotional and melodic than a lot of metal acts the band manages to produce some great songs with a lot of songwriting strength on their self titled debut. “The Panic” is a great song to include as it shows some of the outer fringes of the Nu Metal movement where the emotionality of music was a focus over the rap/metal amalgam.

220px-Unloco_becoming_i32. Unloco- “Neurotic”

While short lived (only two albums), Unloco managed to make an impact in my listening tastes in the span of the two songs of their that was featured in the Music as a Weapon tour cd/dvd. The band had an groove and feel that was both light and dark. “Neurotic” is one of the more upbeat songs on their album Becoming I but it manages to show all of the potential the band had.

33. 3rd Strike- “No Light”Thirds

Speaking of short lived bands, 3rd Strike only released one album but managed to make an impact on the Nu Metal movement with this hit. Their single album overall has some great songs on it that highlighted what most Nu Metal bands tried to do, which is put metal and heavy music together in a cohesive sound.

40_below_morning34. 40 Below Summer- “Better Life”

40 Below Summer is one of the bands that I found accidentally. Again, not the standard Nu Metal fare, the band managed to bring melody and aggression together into great music. “Better Life” comes from their sophomore album The Mourning After which has a lot of great songs on it. 

 

35. Ill Nino- “I Am Loco”220px-Ill_Niño

Ill Nino is one of those bands that not everybody can get into, but those who like their sound will listen to almost anything they put out. Coupling Spanish vocals with heavy music is one of the hallmarks of their songs. Incorporation of tribal beats and a percussionist on their debut album gave them a latin flair to their sound that set them apart from a lot of the other Nu Metal acts out there.

220px-DrowningpoolsinnerAP36. Drowning Pool- “Tear Away”

Last but not least is Drowning Pool’s “Tear Away”. While “Bodies” was the big debut hit, “Tear Away” showed me what potential the late Dave Williams had as a singer and lyric writer. While a lot of the debut album has repeated lyrics, this song manages to keep the narrative from being repetitive.  

Bonus:

220px-Snot_Strait_UpSnot- “Absent”

Unfortunately I was unable to find this song on Spotify to include but it is one of the great songs that Snot produced prior to the death of their singer Lynn Strait in a car accident. This song was included on both the soundtrack to Dee Snider’s cult horror movie Strangeland and the tribute album Strait Up. I have added it here because it is a killer song and should be listened to.

 

Think this is a good playlist and want it on your own without the work of putting it together? You can find it on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/user/5p4q8gvcte2m0cq7qf9zc0vsu/playlist/00DcyowfBjtvHvjRFWqsBC?si=NdDZcAN-Smah4RdKDQWr8A

 

 

 

Musical Roadmap 10

I have to be honest and I’ve been putting this post off for a while. Not because I was avoiding it but because it’s hard to put into words how much of a live changing experience a single album can be. Words like ‘incendiary’, ‘futuristic’, ‘brutal’ and ‘masterpiece’ come to mind when I think about Fear Factory’s second album (not counting the remix of the bands first album Soul of a New Machine) Demanufacture. While I was kind of a fringe metalhead in my ‘tweens and early teens, once I heard this album the days of listening to R&B and Rap in the mid-1990’s was over. 

So many things to say about this album. Another in the long line of bands that my older brother introduced me to this one has probably the most lasting impression and loyalty that I give to few bands. The first song I had actually heard was the track “Scumgrief” (Deep Dub Trauma Mix) when it was included for a short time in the movie Hideaway which was based on the Dean Koontz novel.

This was the first album of the “Classic” lineup of Singer Burton C. Bell, Guitarist Dino Cazares, Bassist Christian Olde Wolbers, and Drummer Raymond Herrera an is still regarded as their best work (although, in my opinion the back to back albums of Demanufacture and Obsolete are probably the most solid of their career). 

Fear_Factory_-_DemanufactureReleased on Roadrunner Records on June 13,1995, this album was one of, if not the first, album to successfully blend industrial and metal together into a powerful and provocative combination and, along with Bell’s ability to go from screaming to singing, predates Five Finger Death Punch’s Ivan Moody style by a decade. Demanufacture was also one of the first futuristic metal ‘concept’ albums that I ever remember being released. 

Inspired by the move The Terminator, the lyrical theme throughout the album is man’s struggle against a sentient machine army and the struggle for humanity to survive. This album’s content was ahead of it’s time in regard to creating a story throughout all of the tracks. Later bands like Mastodon continued this tradition with great concept albums such as Leviathan, but at the time nobody else was doing this kind of storytelling set to heavy music. 

The pairing of the dark apocalyptic future with the machine precise music created a whole experience through the speakers. It was as if you could hear the pounding of the machinery through the guitar and drums playing in precise lockstep rhythms. Cazares’ guitar parts were brutal and tight. I had started playing guitar before this album came out but Dino’s weight (both lyrically and physically) inspired me even more. You could be heavy, write great guitar parts and be a bigger guy!? Inconceivable! This was awesome for an overweight kid like me because unlike all of the other skinny guitar players it finally gave me one that I could identify with on a size scale. 

The album is full of great songs, however; on a “mainstream” side, the only track that got any notice was the song “Zero Signal” as it was included in the movie based not the video game Mortal Kombat. The album starts off with the title track which leads in with an ominous collection of mechanical sounds and keyboards and then goes straight to the the signature sound of Dino’s guitar in perfect time with Herrera’s drumming. Even listening to it now it gives me goosebumps and makes me want to prepare for war. “Self Bias Resistor” the album’s second track keeps the hammering going with quick, tight rhythms and blast furnace vocals switching off with the hauntingly heavy sung vocals of the chorus. 

The third and fourth songs are two of the most listened to songs on the album, for me at least. The aforementioned “Zero Signal” starts out menacing with large sounding open chords that quickly change to chugging rhythms overlaid with amazing synthesizer work by Rhys Fulber. The next song “Replica” is the musical cock-punch of the album. Probably one of the most accessible guitar parts to play is powerful and the chorus has amazing lyrics. “Filled with pain/bruised and darkened soul/ spare me from the life that’s full of misery”, chills.

Continuing to the mid section of the album tracks like “New Breed” keep the pace and story moving forward while the slower track “Dog Day Sunrise” shows some hints of a groove and showcases one of the few songs where the guitar and base are not blasting the beat at high speed. The vocals on this track are completely sung instead of the switching between heavy and melodic that encompasses the style of the majority of the album.

“Body Hammer” is probably one of my all time favorite songs on this album. I can’t quite put into words what it is about this song that makes it stand out but its chugging heavy beat could match up against any Pantera lick of the same era. The chorus “As of now I am a tool of severe impact” is perfect for pumping iron or playing first person shooters. Musically the song blends the synths over the brutal music perfectly, making sure to leave them hanging just above the heavy grounding like clouds above a dark barren landscape. 

Another song that I tend to favor on the album is the 9th track “H-K (Hunter-Killer). Machine precise, heavy, menacing. You can almost see the machine army marching through the streets while listening to this track. Re-listening to the album today having known the story it really gives scope to the cinematic capability of this album.

Next to last on the album is probably one of the most EPIC heavy songs every with the greatest lyrical ‘third act’ ever written. The meat of the song has chugging metal guitar with the snare accenting the sonic equivalent of a hammer striking nails. “Pisschrist” is easily my #1 favorite metal song of this era hands down. I cannot ever listen to this track without a feeling of intense conflict and without singing the ending “Face down, arms out/ nailed to the cross of doubt, blood runs like rain/drowning for this world in vain/crown of black thorns, human skin ripped and torn/Where is your savior now?” Damn if that is epic. This song even ends on the final question in Bell’s amazing etherial vocals slightly electronically distorted. 

The album closes out with “A Therapy for Pain”. A slower song that serves as a fitting end to the first part of what continued to be a multi-album series of themes of man vs. machine, the singularity and the re-rise of humanity among a world of machines. This song is the musical equivalent of the end of the Dark Knight in that the hope that once was, is lost with the ones who died in the struggle, but the story is not over….

This album also was was re-released as a remix album which blended more techno beats to the industrial heaviness. This strategy was previously used on Fear is the Mindkiller remix album as well and helped the band eventually as the remix albums counted in their contractual album count with Roadrunner. 

As far as albums that push you in one direction or another this one shoved me off the edge of a cliff where my love of sci-fi and metal finally came together in a band that I have remained intensely loyal to throughout the last 20+ years. 

Top 5 Under-rated Comedies

In the world of movies the comedy is always a good bet for an entertaining watch. Over the years comedy has went through many different incarnations, from slapstick to screwball to gross out to dramedy the form has always taken our common experiences and insecurities and shined a light on the ridiculousness of the who human experience. There are many comedies that are well known but I decided to focus on some of my favorite and, in my opinion, underrated comedies.

Back to school5. Back to School: (1986)

Starring Rodney Dangerfield this comedies premise is every kids nightmare, their parents going to college at the same time they do. Dangerfield plays a successful business man who wants to spend more time with his son so he enrolls in his son’s college. Not a previous college graduate but a graduate of the business school of hard knocks Dangerfield’s character comes at odds with some of his teachers but meets some unlikely compatriots in the history teacher (played by the amazing Sam Kinnison) and an English lit teacher whom he falls for. 

Some regular college hijinks happen throughout the movie which are coupled with the “fish out of water” aspect of Dangerfield’s character. There are some great scenes with a quirky early Robert Downey Jr. which steal the show and even a brief cameo by Kurt Vonnegut.

This movie is slightly dated in the 80’s with it’s soundtrack but still a good watch any time and I believe it is highly underrated compared to Rodney Dangerfield’s other known movie Caddyshack.


4. Dirty Work: (1998)42980-dirty-work-0-230-0-345-crop

This movie was directed by Bob Saget (yes, the dad from Full House) and stars SNL alum Norm MacDonald as well as a young (and less drugged) Artie Lange. The story surrounds a slacker and career prankster who starts a revenge for hire business in order to pay for his father’s surgery. There are some great cameo’s and casting throughout including a great scene with insult comedian Don Rickles, Chris Farley missing a nose, Chevy Chase and everybody’s favorite antagonist in the late 90’s Christopher McDonald (Shooter McGavin anyone?)

The movie is really a love story as well as a story about the strength of friendship. Playing to Norm’s strengths the movie has some great one liners and physical humor. Great jokes are sprinkled throughout as well as some great pranks pulled by the protagonist keep the movie entertaining and chuckle worthy.


Evolution3. Evolution: (2001)

The first comedic performance I ever remember seeing of David Duchovny is a good one. This Ivan Reitman directed film has a pretty solid cast which includes Orlando Jones (whatever happened to him?) and Sean William Scott (can’t be Stiffler forever) as well as Julianne Moore and Dan Aykroyd. 

Duchovny plays a disgraced former government scientist who is banished to a community college in the southwest. Things are going normally until a meteor crashes nearby that happens to have alien life forms on it which begin evolving at an accelerated rate. The ensuing hilarity is provided both in jokes, awkward situational comedy and the types of creatures thought up by the effects team. 

This movie never disappoints and always fills in a bored spot on a Sunday. As far as sci-fi comedies go my list contains Evolution, Galaxy Quest (another criminally underrated comedy), and Space Balls. If you’ve never seen this movie I highly recommend you do.


2. Men at Work: (1990)men at work

Quite possibly the only movie I ever remembering seeing the Estevez brothers in (yes, Charlie Sheen is actually an Estevez) it is an odd but lasting comedy. Based around a murder conspiracy involving illegal toxic waste and two bumbling garbage men who stumble upon it, there are plenty of laughs within the context of this thriller comedy. 

Along with Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez stalwart actor (and voice of many great cartoons) Keith David adds a level of hilarity while playing the straight man of the group. The rest of the actors are basically background character actors of the era but they serve their roles in the backdrop of this film well. 

This film is intriguing enough to rewatch and even has a few quotable lines that I still throw around to confuse co-workers who are a good decade younger than me. Another good matinee watch if you need something to entertain yourself for a while.


  1. PCU: (1994)

PCUA lot of people didn’t realize that Jeremy Piven had a career prior to Entourage, but he actually had been in a number of movies. Most notably as a secondary character in a lot of his friend John Cusack’s films like One Crazy Summer and Grosse Pointe Blank he managed to fill in either the typical college douchebag or quirky sidekick character with ease. However, PCU provided Piven with one of his first larger roles and proves that he had that “Ari Gold-ness” to him before he even read the script for Entourage. Great jokes and pokes at college life in the 1990’s are sprinkled throughout. 

Co-stars in the film include early performances by David Spade, Megan Ward, Jake Busey, Jon Favreau as well as a great performance by Bluth matriarch Jessica Walter and a cameo appearance by George Clinton and P-funk! This movie is an amalgam of insult humor, stoner humor, shots at social group humor and the political correctness movement of the 1990’s all rolled into a fun package. This is another movie I quote and get blank stares in response because I think I’m one of probably 5 people on the planet that still watch this film. This film is not overlooked due to quality, I think it was more that the humor was geared toward a specific generation and a target that small tends to get missed by a lot of people.



Bonus Obscure:

disorganized crimeDisorganized Crime: (1989)

This movie had one of the best ensemble casts of the late 1980’s. Corbin Bernsen, Ruben Blades, Fred Gwynne, Lou Diamond Phillips and William Russ play a crew of thieves who are called in for a heist of a small Montana town. Bernsen plays Frank, the leader of the group who is snatched by the FBI after sending out invitations to the remaining crew for the job. The remaining cast show up to the meeting house to find no Frank and no further details about the job. While dealing with their own dysfunctional relationships the group work to figure out what the job is and decide to pull of the job without Frank.

Frank manages to escape custody but is chased by FBI agents played by the great Ed O’Neil (AKA Al Bundy) and Daniel Roebuck who play their parts as bumbling flatfoots hilariously. While evading the FBI Frank encounters his own series of unfortunate events which make you feel for his character because nobody should have to go through what he does just to get away. 

Meanwhile the rest of the crew formulate the plan to rob the vault in the bank and evade the small police force. I wont give any more of the plot away but I will say that this movie is a great watch and is such an obscure movie that most of you probably never even knew it existed prior to reading this. 


Bonus Bonus Obscure!

10147544-0-water_michael_caine-dvd_f_830e7322-af07-4f81-905f-88cd04df242d_largeWater: (1985)

I remember watching this movie with my dad the first time and not quite understanding why I was laughing but over the years and subsequent re-watchings I’ve come to understand why this movie was funny. Written in the dry British humor Water is a movie that only got as big as it ever was going to but is an enjoyable watch for anyone who enjoys British comedy.

Michael Caine plays the governor of a small British island in the Caribbean whose rather small responsibilities and relatively freewheeling life are interrupted when an old abandoned oil well starts erupting mineral water with a peculiar quality. The fight ensues between the American company that owns the well and the British government who wants to cash in as well. 

While dealing with these warring parties and a dissatisfied wife, Caine’s character also has to deal with the antics of a local guerrilla group played by Billy Connolly and Jimmie Walker who seek to claim independence for their home island. Billy Connolly’s ‘singing rebel’ works to undermine all parties involved with hilarious consequences. 

This movie is great for anybody who loves the oddball comedy as well as has an appreciation for British humor and wants to watch something that is so obscure that they are part of a small club.

That’s it for this time. Hope you watch something on this list and find a new guilty pleasure! Comment below!!

Top 5 R & B/Soul Songs

In honor of the recent passing of the great Aretha Franklin I am doing a top 5 of my favorite Soul/R&B songs. Soul and R&B of the 1960s and 70s also encompassed part of the Doo Wop music that started in the 1950’s and was the first major mainstream success for a lot of African American musicians. For one of the first times in history the artist did not have to be re-recorded by a white artist in order to get attention for their songs. Motown became a hit making machine and the writers and musicians in these sessions managed to produce some of the most enduring and heartfelt performances by the artists that have ever been.

Marvin GayeMarvin Gaye- “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” 1971

While the majority know Marvin for songs like “What’s Going On” and “Let’s Get it On”, I’ve always gravitated towards his less played hits like Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler)” and “Mercy Mercy Me”.

This song just has a silky smoothness that is synonymous with the genre and the time period. Coupled with it’s deep, thoughtful lyrics about the environmental issues in the late 1960’s and 1970’s before the formation of the EPA, this song managed to call to attention the issues caused by lack of regulations on industry and motor vehicles of the time. Sadly, the subject content is still relevant 47 years later as we deal with global warming and the environmental impact humans cause on the environment.

Marvin Gaye was a giant in the genre and is as venerated today as he was at the time of his death in 1984 and his music stands as a testament of what soul can and should be.


Tina Turner- “River Deep, Mountain High” (1966)tina-turner-black-white-photo-shoot-1960s-02

One of the lasting contributions of ‘Wall of Sound’ producer Phil Spector, this song really showcased Tina Turner’s ability. The power of the production only elevates the vocal performance of a woman who would later become one of the biggest names as a solo act in music.

This song employed the talents of the group of studio musicians known as the “Wrecking Crew” which included great artists who played on about a million great tracks over the 1960’s which included names like Glen Campbell and Leon Russell as well as one of the most under appreciated bassists in history, Carol Kaye. Check out the Documentary “The Wrecking Crew” for a great insight into this group of musicians.

Solomon BurkeSolomon Burke- “Down in the Valley” (1962)

One of the most overlooked in the genre Solomon Burke made a sizable (both musically and physically) contribution to the R&B and Soul genre’s. While his musical popularity was more isolated to the 1960’s he still remained a major figure in music until his death in 2010. Often cited as a major influence by a number of people still performing in R&B.

“Down in the Valley” is a great song which utilizes a plodding tempo coupled with horns and piano to make up the majority of the song. Solomon’s voice shines with smoothness and range throughout the lyrics. You can hear the emotion through the delivery on certain phrases and the strength of his voice shows the power that he encompassed in his singing.


Aretha Franklin- “Respect” (1967)aretha-franklin-1392048574-view-1

Originally written and released by Otis Redding two years earlier the song became a staple and one of the most well known songs of Aretha’s. I remember hearing it on the radio but it wasn’t until I saw her perform the song in the Blues Brothers movie until it became solidified in my mind to her. While there are some noticeable differences between the original and Aretha’s re-working of the song, the biggest difference is the change of tone and intent. Redding’s version was about a man who wanted respect from his woman, while Aretha’s became a soundtrack for the power of feminism and the changing attitudes of women at the time.

Aretha was a power in the genre and her recent passing was a major loss for musical heritage and history in the U.S. She will forever be one of the queens of Soul music and a strong voice for women’s rights with this track.


happy-song-otis-reddingOtis Redding- “That’s How Strong My Love Is” (1965)

For me the two titans of Soul singing are Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding. Otis was a prolific writer and his songs have been covered by a great number of groups both in and out of the R&B and Soul genre’s. Most people know him for either “These Arms of Mine” or “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay”, which was the last songs he recorded, however; “That’s How Strong My Love Is” remains my favorite despite the fact that it was not written by Redding.

There are a lot of songs profess their love to the subject, but Otis managed to put the emotion and power of love for someone into his voice. While some of the songs lyrics resort to cliche, he managed to bring out some of the great word choices with his delivery. Lyrics like “I’ll be the moon when the sun goes down, just to let you know that I’m still around” bring a poetic sensibility to the music and are only made that more impactful with the emotion you can hear in his voice. The great guitar work of Steve Cropper accompanies the vocal track in a way that highlights passages without overplaying or overtaking the importance of the vocal track.

Sadly, Otis died in a plane crash at a young age, but his musical contributions and voice were not lost upon the world thanks to the technology of sound recording.

That’s it for this time. As always, comments are welcomed.

Top 5 Nu Metal Albums

Nu Metal was a musical trend that only lasted a few years in the grand scheme of things but managed to produce some great bands that managed to transcend the label. Korn, Deftones, Linkin Park and Limp Bizkit managed to be on the forefront and most popular bands of the era but the widespread meshing of music managed to produce some surprising combinations of music and metal. This list includes many of these names, however; while not entirely definitive, this is the list of my favorite albums from the era.

220px-Limp_Bizkit_Significant_Other5. Limp Bizkit: Significant Other

While their debut earned some recognition due to it’s spirited cover of George Michael’s “Faith”, it wasn’t until Significant Other that the Florida NuMetal squad managed to make an impact on the scene. The confluence of hip hop beats and rapping with the heavy of metal managed to combine into one of the biggest and catchiest songs of the era “Nookie”. The album actually manages to have some great songs on it (it spawned 4 top 20 singles) mixed with some short skit tracks that are commonly associated with rap albums. Songs like “Break Stuff”, “I’m Broke”, “Re-arranged” and the Scott Weiland and Jonathan Davis Guesting Track “Nobody Like You” are all great songs and show a versatility that touches outside of the hip-hop/metal mixture the band was known for.

Ultimately Limp Bizkit became a victim of their own success and imploded shortly after the Nu Metal craze burned out. They did manage to release a few albums after their last successful effort 2000’s Chocolate Starfish and the Hotdog Flavored Water but have never managed to get back to a top heap status. The band does still occasionally tour and legions of ex-jocks still pump to “Break Stuff” while waiting for the band to release their long awaited Stampede of the Disco Elephants album. 

220px-Mudvayne_lost_and_found4. Mudvayne: Lost and Found

Mudvayne remained an enigma throughout their short (9 years) yet productive career. They burst on the scene as the nickname monikered painted Nu Metal act and evolved in a short time to one of the most progressive metal acts out there. I can think of few bands that could mix together the intensity of Pantera with the highly methodical writing of Tool to come out with a cohesive and catchy sound. Each member was highly skilled at their craft and brought new elements that were lacking in metal. I’m a big fan of Ryan Martinie and Matt McDonough as they held down the bottom and added complexities of timing and funk of slap bass into the metal mix. 

Lost and Found is the first album I ever remember being so excited about that I pre-ordered. While Mudvayne had two great albums that preceded, 2000’s debut L.D. 50 and 2002’s The End of All Things to Come, but with 2005’s Lost and Found they finally found a sound that was more representative of their collective efforts. From the jump the album is heavy with the opening track “Determined” followed by “Pushing Through”. The third song and first major single “Happy?” Is heavy yet catchy with lyrics that speak to anyone who has ever had a bad relationship. The bands complex song writing can be heard in songs like IMN, Rain. Sun. Gone. And Choices. The album has the commecial appeal of more radio friendly songs such as the aforementioned “Happy?”, as well as “Forget to Remember”, “Fall Into Sleep” and “Pulling the String”. Lost and Found stands as a testament to how missed this four piece is on the metal scene since their hiatus as well as remains one of my favorite albums to listen to from the era.

220px-Static-X_-_Wisconsin_Death_Trip3. Static-X: Wisconsin Death Trip

Nu Metal managed to combine a number of seemingly opposing genres of music with metal, but Disco? Wayne and crew managed to meld the industrial metal of Ministry, NIN and Fear Factory with a pop orientated dance music to created their self proclaimed “Evil Disco”. Static-X was the first band that I had ever met in person and as such they hold a pretty special place for me. I met the band prior to them becoming huge on MTV and in the Nu Metal scene. At the time the guys were all jovial and friendly and were just enjoying themselves. Wayne was highly intelligent if not a little quiet. Tony and Ken were two of the funniest nicest guys you could ever meet and I have a fond night of hanging out and laughing with them. That being said, I can be a little biased with my love for Static-X’s music, however; their debut album Wisconsin Death Trip was an amazing first step for a band that would evolve and become heavier as time went by. Members changed as well as the sound but the groundwork set in their debut album would still come through in their sound throughout the bands lifetime. 

The mix of metal guitars, hooky riffs, and funky pop orientated rhythms managed to give you two things that bring together metal heads and girls, heavy music to mosh to and groovy beats to shake your ass to. The band managed to put together a cohesive sound with two musical movements that always seemed at odds with one another.

The album’s biggest songs come on the front side of the album with “Push It”, “I’m With Stupid” and “Love Dump” being three of the first four songs on the album. I am a big fan of some of the album’s deeper cuts. The hypnotic “Stem”, the dance hop of “Sweat of the Bud” and the album’s two trance-inducing final tracks “The Trance is the Motion” and “December” close out the album on a mellow yet satisfying end as it fades into white noise.

I never got to hang out with the band again but I bought every album they ever put out and saw them live every time they were in town. Some of my best memories are Static-X shows and while I still listen to the albums regularly, I have done so with a heavy heart since Wayne Static’s death. Their music still endures in this day and age and did not date itself with sound or content and that is one of the things that makes a great band.

Deftones_-_Around_the_Fur2.  Deftones: Around the Fur

The Deftones were one of the bands considered one of the founders of the Nu Metal movement and, even though they have long since shed their Nu Metal classification by continuing to evolve, they still managed to produce one of the best albums in the movement. 1997’s Around the Fur is one of the most solid sounding albums they produced in the 1990’s. This album had the atmospherics that would be utilized more on 2000’s White Pony coupled with the metal intensity that they had showcased on their debut album Adrenaline. 

The sound is more focused and production better on Around the Fur than their debut and the album really shows how their progression was going to continue beyond the confines of the genre. While it is impossible to figure out what singer Chino Moreno is singing about you cant help but love the anthemic choruses that litter the album. From the opening track “My Own Summer (Shove It)” anybody who had listened to the first album knew that they were going to be going down a rabbit hole to something altogether different yet familiar enough to not drive fans away.

The riffs are tight and move the song, the rhythm section is solid, and the choruses are anthemic and catchy. The band manages to meld so many different sounds and dynamics into the albums tracks that it is almost unfair to listen to any album released at the same time with similar expectations in experience. This album is great to put on if you want to rage or if you want to chill and relax. Heavy songs like the “My Own Summer”, “Rickets”, “Lotion”, “Headup”, and “MX” keep the blood flowing enough to satisfy the metal fan while down tempo and slightly chill tracks like “Lhabia”, “Mascara”, “Around the Fur”, and “Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)” keep a groove and funkiness that you can sit back and tune out to.

The Deftones have put out some pretty incendiary albums so far in their career, White Pony and Koi no Yokan for instance, however; the mixture of laid back tunes and heavy burners that make up Around the Fur will always make it stand out in my mind as an ultimately listenable album that set the Deftones apart from the heavily hip-hop inspired Nu Metal that followed.

hybrid theory1. Linkin Park: Hybrid Theory

When it comes to quintessential Nu Metal albums Linkin Park’s debut album is considered the top of the list for almost anyone who was a fan of the genre. The group managed to combine all of the elements of hip hop, groove, metal and pop and successfully manage to produce albums that were poppy enough for the mainstream yet metal enough for the longhairs. 

Carefully calculated raps from Mike Shinoda juxtaposed against the emotional and painful lyrics and scream-singing of Chester Bennington became the forefront of the mix. Catchy riffs layered on hip hop beats with the addition of tasteful atmospherics and dj scratching were all held together with a solid rock and roll foundation. The combination of all these elements managed to strike multiple platinum success for the band as fans packed stadiums and bought everything they produced.

Linkin Park is also another band that managed to transcend the genre and ultimately shed the label of Nu Metal to produce more widespread musical albums and it is a testament to the band that after two massively successful albums with one style of music they were willing to take a right turn on their third album and manage to keep a lot of die hard fans. While the death of Chester Bennington may have put the bands activity on indefinite hiatus, the band’s catalog to date is more than enough to satiate the want for Linking Park. 

The album was a hit factory for the band as almost every song on the album stood a chance at being a successful single only four songs were release as singles for the album. While “One Step Closer” became a staple on hard rock rotation it wasn’t until the success of “Crawling” and “In the End” that the band really took off. I don’t know anyone my age that doesn’t know pretty much every word to “In the End” and I hear the occasional failed attempt of the song at karaoke, however; the song became so popular that it almost became a victim of its own success. 

The overplaying of certain tracks aside, the album is packed with great material. The non-single tracks pack a lot of punch with tracks like “Papercut”, “With You”, “Points of Authority”, “Place for My Head”, and “Forgotten” moving the album forward and keeping the listener engaged with emotional lyrics and easily to remember raps to get stuck in your head. Even the non-lyrical track of “Cure for the Itch” manages to showcase Mr. Hahn’s skills as a dj with a fun and every evolving track that goes from samples and scratches to a solid catchy melodic track. The album closer “Pushing Me Away” is one of my favorites and a fitting end to an amazing debut album. 

Hybrid Theory was so good that it was questionable that the band would be able to follow up with a decent album. To beat the sophomore curse Linkin Park bought themselves some time by releasing an equally amazing remix album Reanimantion while writing their follow up. This proved to be a winning strategy as Metora came out and was just as catchy and prolific as Hybrid Theory was. 

For all their changes in style and substance, Linkin Park managed to keep an emotionality with their content that endeared fans to the band and their albums. Hybrid Theory came out at the right time and had the right mix of elements to be a massive album. There was a whole generation of people in their teens or late teens going through emotional changes and heartbreaks that were going to gravitate toward the introspective and emotional lyrics of Shinoda and Bennington. The emotional gravity of Hybrid Theory is what, in my mind, puts this album as the #1 Nu Metal album on this list and dare I say all time.

Your favorite Nu Metal album not make the list? State your case below! Comments are always welcome.

Top 5 Heavy Metal/Hard Rock Guitarists

Anyone who has read any of my other posts knows that I am a self proclaimed metalhead. As metal goes it has always been very guitar driven and as a result has produced some of the most technical and virtuoso guitarists in the last 20 years. I decided to put a list together of my favorite heavy metal/hard rock guitarists as both a tribute to them as well as to maybe expand your listening a bit (if you are so inclined).

malcolm-young-12aa9252-b531-486b-a595-1cc4580251f55. Malcom Young- Everybody knows his brother Angus as the flashy schoolboy outfit wearing lead guitarist of AC/DC, however; Malcom Young is by far one of the most overlooked guitarists in the hard rock genre. Without this man AC/DC would have been missing almost all of their signature rhythm guitar parts which are some of the best known pieces of their songs. With the exception of the lead from “Thunderstruck” what other parts can you really remember that weren’t written or co-written by Malcom? The answer is none. I could run down the list of great parts played by this understated by hard rocking guitarist but that would take too long. Suffice it to say that you would not be listening to AC/DC if it wasn’t for this man.

Matt Heafy4. Matthew K. Heafy- While I was not a huge fan of some of their earlier records Trivium has become one of my ‘go-to’ metal artists. The first song I listened to by the band was “Pull Harder on the Strings of your Martyr” but oddly enough I was listening to the track for the drums. It actually took me a while to finally connect with the bands music as only a few tracks from The Crusade and Shogun really stuck with me. It wasn’t until 2011’s In Waves that I really perked up and started paying attention. 

At this point the band finally found themselves in being able to blend all of the elements of their previous efforts into once cohesive album. Heafy’s technical ability as well as his sense for melody and structure make him one of metal’s most talented frontmen and guitarists out there and his abilities are not limited to only rhythm playing, the guy can shred solos like nothing.

Mark-Tremonti-2014-BILLBOARD-6503. Mark Tremonti- Going back to his beginnings in Creed I always kind of kept an eye on this guy. While there were a few moments in that band that he was able to show a little of his skill (“What If”) he was largely held within a certain box. After Creed dissolved and was reformed as Alter Bridge (sans the Christ wannabe singer) Tremonti was able to showcase his talents on the guitar and his songwriting grew leaps and bounds. He has shown over the course of 20 years that he is a man committed to his craft and is dedicated to also helping spread the interest and love of guitar to new people. He launched his own company, Fret 12, which distributes guitar demonstration videos from some of metal and hard rocks big names including guitarists from bands like Slipknot, Stone Sour, Sevendust, Mastodon, as well as his own band Alter Bridge. 

image-placeholder-title2. Dimebag Darrell- Anyone who ever listened to metal knows Dime’s name. It has become synonymous with virtuosity and heaviness. Dime was a statesman in the world of metal and was known to be one of the most generous guys with both his time and his friends. In the early 1990’s Pantera managed to keep metal in the minds of the public as well as alive through the Grunge era when most metal bands fell out of favor with the audience at large. While Cowboys from Hell has been recognized for one of their best works and Far Beyond Driven got a lot of attention for being one of the few metal albums to debut at number 1 on the Billboard charts, the album between, Vulgar Display of Power will always be one of my favorites as there isn’t a single song I skip past. I will say that I didn’t always appreciate some of Dime’s solo’s (dont get me wrong, their great some kind of dissolve into noise for me) the more melodic ones he produced were my favorites. 

Dime’s death weighed heavily on the metal community and he is someone who will never be forgotten because he was such a big figure that did not deserve to die the way that he did. His legacy lives on in both the music and the hearts of the fans and friends alike. 

randy-rhoads-fame-735x4131. Randy Rhoads- Let’s face it, there would be no Ozzy Osborne post Black Sabbath if it were not for this man. Sadly, Randy is not looked at as highly in most people’s eyes as Eddie Van Halen, but while Van Halen was stealing all of the flash for his two hand tapping guitar tricks and fun rock music Randy was grinding it out on the LA scene with his band Quiet Riot and teaching classical guitar at his mom’s music school. Both Rhoads and Van Halen belong at the top of the mountain for innovative guitarists in the last 40 years their styles were worlds apart. Van Halen kept his innovation to a blues based rock music while Rhoads brought his classical guitar background to the metal world and redefined Ozzy Osborne’s career in the span of just two albums. 

Unfortunately Randy met an untimely death due to a plane crash in the 1982 and there were not a lot of unreleased material for his fans to be able to enjoy. Lots of us question how big he would have been in the metal world had he lived longer, sadly, we will never know. One of the best albums to hear the greatness of this little blonde wizard is the Tribute album which is a live collection of songs that were recorded during the the two tours he did with Ozzy. While the studio versions of “Crazy Train” and other classics are still amazing, the live versions go even farther in dynamics. The live versions have a slightly faster tempo and the guitar fills played on these songs make them so much better than the studio versions and showcase the ability that Randy had on the instrument. 

Musical Roadmap Part 9

Teenage years are often the most enlightening time in a young persons life. I’m not just talking about bodily changes and attitudes being solidified but also the exploration of ideas and the general rebellion against establishment that happens in the middling years. The seeds of later life opinions and tastes are becoming solidified in the teenage era. Mentally, you are past the whimsical early years where nothing mattered to the extreme opposite side of the spectrum where everything matters. 

I was a teenage outcast. I didn’t fit into any particular subgroup of people in junior high and high school. Too nerdy and un-athletic for the cool jock kids, too rebellious for the nerds and so eclectic in my musical choices to fit into anything remotely normal. Eight grade was a bit of a turning point. In eight grade I became friends with Mike. He was cool to me. He played in a band, was a great artist, and just a great guy to know and be around. He was funny and fun to hang out with. 

That year I went from being a mostly religious nerd to an inductee into a strange world where all of the kids that didn’t fit into any group seemed to collectively land. Our group of friends ran the gamut from nerd, to goth, to punker, to hippy and (at one time or another) I fit into every one. Out of this group came the strongest high school friendships I ever had (on one side my smart, goth, outcast friend JohnRobert was always there to talk about industrial music and Lovecraft books and the other was Mike, my punk rock, band geek friend). 

This year also began my transition from just a fan of music to a musician. This was the first year I was in a guitar class (even though it didn’t last the entire first semester due to some shady shit from the teacher). My friend mike helped me to understand reading tablature and fumble my way through the first songs I ever learned. Ever patient Mike would help me in class learn how to play the main riff from Nirvana’s “Come As You Are” and Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” on my cheap little classical guitar. 

Outside of class, my friend Mike helped me explore a new world of music that I had yet to discover. Through both his own family band SPUD (I grew up in Idaho) he introduced met a number of punk and ska bands that were still moderately underground at the time. At the time in our little Boise suburb there was a healthy youth underground punk and ska scene with kids from all over town either playing in bands or producing their own Fan-zines. 

Much like the punk scene in DC in the 80’s, we were the producers, consumers, and journalists of our own universe. The 90’s were great for kids learning instruments because the grunge and alternative music genre’s showed us that anybody could play an instrument and write songs. Punk and Ska were gateway’s to a fun time and it allowed both the traditional instruments of bands to flourish with new talent, but also allowed the brass band kids to have fun outside of the notes on the page of decades old music. 

Where am I going with all this blabbering about my adolescence you may ask? Well, in the pre-internet days, we shared music through either tape dubbing or in some cases early cd burning. It happened one day that I was hanging out at Mike’s house after school and listening to music that he put in a tape by a band called Green Day. This was my first listen to Dookie (Green Day’s 1993 major label release). 

From the get go I loved the songs on Dookie. This was slightly before the band’s wide spread success from when “Longview” broke out on MTv. The songs were catchy. The melodies were great, and the lyrical matter spanned a lot of the same topics that my friends and I would talk about. From being bored, to relationships, to feeling like you’re going crazy it was like Billy Joe Armstrong had tapped into the teenagers at the time and just wrote whatever the pulse was. It also helped that the guitar parts were simple enough to learn and the vocals were not particularly difficult. 

220px-Green_Day_-_Dookie_cover

Dookie stands the test of time and could have populated my 90’s Albums That Refuse To Age list, but I’ve included it in my musical roadmap for the sheer impact it had on my listening. When we finished listening to Dookie all the way through I asked Mike if Green Day had any other albums and they did. I brought Mike a tape the next day and asked if he could record one of Green Day’s other albums for me and after a few days he ended up handing me the tape back with Kerplunk on it.

Even earlier than Dookie, Green Day had the formula down for great songs. Every song on Kerplunk was just a good as everything on Dookie, the only difference was the production quality. Dookie was a gateway album for me to a lot of punk that I ended up finding on my own later. Everything from The Offspring to Pennywise and Bad Religion. 

green day

Dookie was so good that it could have been a ‘Greatest hits’ album by itself. Not only was “Longview”, “Welcome to Paradise”, “When I Come Around” and “Basket Case” the radio staples, but other great songs such as “She”, “Pulling Teeth”,  and “Burnout” were sprinkled within the tracks. The album proved that a band could have the aggression and speed of punk, but also the pop sensibilities to create anthemic sing along songs.

I have to thank my friend Mike for a lot he did in those days. Not only did he help me with guitar but he also helped mentor me on double bass in orchestra. He also helped open the door to the world of punk rock that I dove into and still inhabit today. While he provided the starting point I later discovered other great artists on my own like Fugazi, Bad Brains, Circle Jerks, MXPX, The Clash, The Ramones and tons of others. 

I identified with punk back then because it spoke of everyday life in its lyrics. I continued to identify with it even more deeply as my attitudes and stances on things became more intellectual and sometimes even anti-authoritarian. Music is a thermometer for your own feelings. It can identify your current sickness and provide a relief to it through aggression, silence, noise and a myriad of other dynamics. 

This article is both an exploration of an influential album in my life but also an opportunity to thank my friend for his influence and help. While I may have let my passion for the instrument of guitar wane over the years my passion for punk and my love of Dookie have never waned. So to that, Thanks Mikey!

Until Next time.. Keep listening!

Top 5 Dramatic Television Shows (in the last 20 years)

Television is a medium that waxes and wanes on its quality. It is also one of the hardest mediums to write a piece on the “best of” because tastes are so varied. I decided to put out a list of my top 5 dramatic television shows released in the last 20 years because a good drama can make you question whether you were paying attention. When the twist hits sometimes you stop and go “Wow… the whole damn thing was building to that!”

5. Billions- A New York lawyer in a battle of wits with a hedge fund billionaire with questionable morals. This premise could have fallen completely flat if it were not for the excellent main cast and the chess-like game played out with brilliance over both Season 1 and 2 (so far).

Paul Giamatti is brilliant as is Damian Lewis in their roles opposite each other. The show doesn’t get stuck in the minutia enough to bore but puts enough thought into both the legal and financial worlds to educate as well as entertain.

4. Justified- Law and order and hillbillies and drugs. Nothing ever got tired on this show. Throughout its five seasons the twists turns and standoffs between the main characters produced some of, if not THE best, dialog on television for a long time. Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins were amazing as rivals. The supporting cast was excellent with the inclusion of  Jere Burns as Wynn Duffy, as well as Nick Searcy and Jacob Pitts (that guy from Eurotrip). Sam Elliot made the final season just as interesting to watch as characters came and went. Season 2 stands out with the brilliant acting of Margo Martindale as Mags Bennett.

3.The Newsroom– My God. Jeff Daniels and Sam Waterston were amazing in this show. The drama and humor were well balanced. While depicting events in the past, it created an interesting dynamic with the audience knowing what will happen next in the news events while the characters work their way through news stories such as Casey Anthony, The Horizon Spill, and many other important historical events unfolding on the screen.

The show was written by Aaron Sorkin (by far one of my favorite screenwriters) and blends the smart dialog and dramatic tension that he is known for in his other work. Oh yeah… The show also opens with probably the best 5 minutes on television ever.

2. The Wire– This show wasn’t super popular at it’s beginning, but man what a monster it became. The Wire broke the mold of normal serial television and was one of the first “anthology” shows out there. Each season explored a different aspect of society through the eyes of the city of Baltimore. From the drug trade, the death of the American Dream, to corruption in politics and the broken education system you learn the many layers that comprise the systematic failure of the institutions of major cities.

Season 1 was gripping and built an excellent foundation for the subsequent seasons, however; Season 2 is a standout because the cast, story and scope was so amazing and heartbreaking at the same time.

1. The West Wing- Another show written by Aaron Sorkin. I blame The West Wing for making me go into student loan debt in college. The dialog and interaction with events that, while fictional, could be just as real in the White House today. The show had heart. Strong characters and actor that brought an otherwise potential snooze fest about politics to life with wit and charm. One of the biggest things that stands out on this show for me is Martin Sheen’s portrayal of President Bartlett. While his character can be called a “liberal’s dream”, President Bartlett struggles with real decisions and moral questions throughout the entire series and really embodied what a President should be, fictional or otherwise.

Honorable mentions:

True Detective-This show did not make it into my top 5, but it stands as one of the great anthology series. Season 1, which starred Woody Harrelson and Matthew Mconaughey was epic. The story unfolded in different times and in different areas and the humanity of the characters drew you in.

While Season 2 was marred with some pacing issues that caused issues with the viewership. However; the standout performance of Vince Vaughn alone was enough to keep tuning in episode after episode. Hopefully the upcoming season 3 will finally restore this great show back to its previous height.

Fargo– Another anthology series loosely based off of the Coen brothers universe. The first and second seasons were amazing. The ensemble cast, from Billy Bob Thornton and Martin freeman held down the quirkiness and dark humor of the series. Season two included the likes of Ted Danson, Patrick Wilson and Jeffery Donovan. However, it was surprising standout performances by Nick Offerman and (crazily enough) Bokeem Woodbine that stole a lot of the episodes.

As always, comments are welcome. Weigh in on your favorites!

Blogs About Music and Pop Culture