Classic Album Review: KISS - Destroyer
KISS are a band that often divide opinion. Some people see them as little more than a joke band, but they also have legions of hardcore fans that are willing to buy anything they release, from ‘KISS Kondoms’ to ‘Kiss Kaskets’, which also happen to double up as a fridge.
Destroyer, released in 1976, is probably their most critically acclaimed album, featuring on Rolling Stones ‘500 greatest albums’ list. The album opens with the popular ‘Detroit Rock City’, which on the album features an intro over a minute long, setting the scene for a song about a fan who was killed on his way to a KISS show. On vinyl it works as a brilliant lead in to the song, but doesn’t work as well in todays instant gratification mp3 market, perhaps why the intro is rarely included with the song on compilation albums. The song is a fan favourite, with a guitar solo that is used in the Megadeth song ‘She-Wolf’ as homage.
This is followed by track 2, ‘King Of The Night Time World’, which is a typical song about teenage rebellion. The protagonist of the song laments having to go to school and do homework, feeling as though he can only really be himself at night when he can go out with his girlfriend. The next cut, ‘God Of Thunder’ is a song that is a lot heavier than every other song on the album, and most of KISS’ back catalogue. Featuring Gene Simmons on vocals, with his bass line also being the most prominent instrument in the mix, it is a song that really shows a different side to KISS. The following track however couldn’t be more different, ‘Great Expectations’ is a brilliant ballad that uses elements of classical music. As opposed to being about a girl, this ballad is about the band and how much girls want them, a typical display of the bands arrogance.
The two numbers after that, ‘Sweet Pain’ and ‘Flaming Youth’ are great album tracks that fit in perfectly, but they’re not going to change anyone’s opinion on the band, unlike ‘Shout It Out Loud’ which is an excellent rock and roll song with call and response style verses. The next track, ‘Beth’ is the better of the albums two ballads. Co-written and sung by the much-maligned Peter Criss, the song was included as the B-side to the single ‘Detroit Rock City’ and wound up getting more radio airplay than any other song on the album. It was later released as a single in it’s own right, and charted at number 7 in the US. ‘Beth’ also re-ignited album sales, allowing ‘Destroyer’ to be certified platinum in November ’76.
The album is closed with ‘Do You Love Me?’ a song that features Paul Stanley questioning whether girls are with him because he is a rock star, and not because of his personality, something that is perhaps unintentionally hilarious given the fact that most of the bands songs treat women as objects of desire instead of people.
Overall the album is a great example of rock songs done incredibly well within a pop music structure. There is nothing deep or meaningful here – but that’s what KISS are all about, they just want you to turn the music up, forget about your troubles, and shout it out loud.
Songs to Spotify: God Of Thunder, Shout It Out Loud, Beth.
Mutation - The Frankenstein Effect / Error 500
Last week we featured a review of the wonderful Hey!Hello!, one of the new musical projects from Ginger Wildheart as part of his latest Pledge Music campaign. Well, as well as producing that little gem, he has brought us two more monsters, under the guise of Mutation.
The first, The Frankenstein Effect actually began life around two years ago. Recording begun but was halted for some time, only to be brought back to life by the Pledge project and a crew of fantastic musicians in tow. To try and put this album into words is quite a challenge, but i’ll give it a go anyway.
Heavy and bouncy, Powderland opens the album like a smack in the face, a good one. The riffs are bursting, coming at you from every angle, preparing you for the arrival of Rats which is next, and once that chorus kicks in you are hooked. Complete with thunderous drums, once the tune gets you, you’ve had it. Friday Night Drugs has a slight poppy feel to it, certainly in the chorus, but the grittiness and the pace of the guitar throws this track all over the place, in a completely fantastic fashion. The cheeky cheerleader style chants give good effect slotted in here and there. Schadenfreuden is probably one of my favourites,. The drumming is outstandingly fast and furious, with serious riffs to match, and the force of the vocals on the chorus are enough to blow you away. Gruntwhore has been singled out as one of the most popular tracks on the album, it is pure noise, gutsy and dirty, with Scott Lee Andrews (Exit_International), Tom Spencer (The Loyalties/Yo-Yos) and Paul Catten (Murder One) sharing singing duties, brutally good. Perhaps the most accessible track, if any on The Frankenstein Effect, is Lively Boy. It brings together so many different styles, but it leaves sounding semi-anthemic. Epic piano intro, abrupt tempo changes, choppy choruses, it sounds like at least four or five songs shoved into one, awkwardly brilliant, and the fact it is probably the most accessible is a little crazy.
To be completely honest, The Frankenstein Effect is one of the craziest albums you may be exposed to this year, but it is brilliant. A whole lot heavier than anything Ginger has previously released, extreme in places but still full of that underlying melody he is always so great at delivering. Full of surprises, The Frankenstein Effect is actually very solid as a record. The first of the two to be released under the Mutation name, this is supposed to be tame.
If The Frankenstein Effect challenges Ginger fans with its musical insanity, along comes the second offering from Mutation Error 500 to rival it. A completely different kind of heavy, it makes the first one sound like easy listening.
Absolute head messer Bracken is a monster of a track to open with. The drum work of Denzel must be applauded, frantic and fast it holds the song up, and he continues to display this throughout the album. Utopia Syndrome is sheer craziness, only to be listened to at ear bleeding volume in order to fully appreciate its seamless noise. More insanity to follow in the form of Mutations which features legendary Fall frontman Mark E Smith on vocals. Full on mindbending electronica, it sounds like a mental breakdown. More kudos to Mark E Smith for his delivery of the lyrics ‘Your shoelaces are bleeding’ featured in Relentless Confliction, more madness but musically brilliant. The talent of the musicians featured on Error 500 and The Frankenstein Effect is simply fantastic. As frantic and messy as some of the tracks are, the skill behind them in undeniable, and highly evident when listening.
With Mutation, Ginger set himself a challenge to reach new musical heights, something fresh and completely different. It is safe to say he has done just that, but in doing so has kept it completely musical and not got lost in meaningless noise. The intensity of both records continues to grow with each listen, and each time you can pick out new bits, or hear them in a different way, pretty incredible really. Maybe not something for everyone, but you’d be a fool not to give these records a spin. All hail Ginger, he’s done it again!
There is still time to get your pledges in on Mutation and Hey!Hello! Just head to www.pledgemusic.com/projects/gingerwildheartmutation and do your bit!
Crashdiet - Savage Playground
Named as one of the leaders of Swedish glam rock, Crashdiet return with their fourth studio album, one they claim is their best yet. In the build up to the release the group stated that they wanted to reflect their edgier live performance on record as well as finding new ways to express themselves; have they pulled it off?
The album begins with a dramatic speech leading into sparky, off beat rhythms and pounding drums; an enticing introduction. Whilst the opening track demands your attention, followed by brilliant first single Cocaine Cowboys; The Savage Playground somewhat fades into background music with a couple of tracks reaching out to try capture your full concentration once again, such as the seductive whispering of Snakes In Paradise. Cocaine Cowboys divided the incredibly loyal Crashdiet fanbase, however, it’s bluesy slide guitar and huge chorus cement it’s position as an album highlight. The cracks start showing in Calfornia; whilst showcasing some delightful vocal harmonies, the track seems to lose it’s way with no real focus or direction. Simon Cruz’s dynamic vocal deliveries are a shining positive; from his snarly performance in Lickin’ Dog to the short and snappy Circus, it’s great to hear a handful of diverse vocal approaches within one album. Sin City features an anthemic chorus and sounds like it could belong on previous record Generation Wild, a classic sleaze track complete with fist pumping chorus.
Whilst The Savage Playground may not have quite reached expectations, there are some cracking tracks hidden within, you just have to skip through the rest to find them.
Songs I’d Recommend: Cocaine Cowboys, Sin City, Circus.
Classic Album Review: Bruce Springsteen - Born in the USA
Released in the summer of 1984, Born In The USA was the album that finally gave Bruce Springsteen the critical and commercial success that his previous six albums had warranted. The bombastic rock stylings on display on this record were a dramatic departure from 1981’s solo acoustic offering Nebraska, and there are even reports that Springsteen had to promise Born In The USA would aim for a mainstream sound in order to get Nebraska released.
Undoubtedly his most famous album, it is not as gritty as much of his other work, however that is not to say that it is pure pop. The problems of the American man are still fully explored here – they are just contained in more polished songs. The biggest example of this is title track ‘Born In The USA’, a bitter anthem lambasting the Vietnam War that is commonly mistaken as being patriotic. In fact, during Ronald Reagan’s re-election campaign in 1984, he used the song at one of his rallies, missing the point entirely.
The following track ‘Cover Me’, is one of the weaker songs on the album, along with track nine – ‘I’m Going Down’. Far from being bad songs, they just don’t feel at home on this album, and would have been more suited stripped down on Nebraska or 1980’s double album The River. The third track ‘Darlington County’ has no such problems. A song about two buddies travelling through America to find work and the problems and joys they have on their journey exemplifies Springsteen and what he does best. These themes are further explored in the following track ‘Working On The Highway’, and placing these tracks next to each other on the album creates a vivid image of the American blue collar worker, and highlights just how good a storyteller Springsteen is.
‘Downbound Train’ sees the album take a more sombre direction. The song describes a man who loses both his wife and job in a short space of time, and the effects it has on him, two problems the general American population was all too familiar with at the time. This is followed by ‘I’m on Fire’, which whilst still darker in tone, reads like a teenage love letter. ‘No Surrender” is a song about friendship and that unbreakable bond, whilst ‘Bobby Jean’ is a lament that deals with what it’s like to lose your best friend when they are also your lover. This track does see the album go back towards a more mainstream sound, which is perfected on tracks ten and eleven – ‘Glory Days’ and ‘Dancing In The Dark’. These two songs cannot be done justice in words. Yes, they are both very simple pop songs, but Springsteen manages to squeeze real emotion into them. If you are unfamiliar with them I implore you to stop reading this and put them on, you won’t regret it.
Album closer ‘My Hometown’ is the saddest song on the album, a look at how the ‘American Dream’ results in generation after generation repeating each other with little or no progress. Despite it’s downbeat nature, it works perfectly as an album closer.
Born In The USA is the perfect pop-rock album. I do not say that lightly either. Whilst not my personal favorite Boss album, this is the album that got me into him, and I believe that anyone that sits down and listens to it will also be drawn into his world.
Songs To Spotify: Darlington County, Glory Days, Dancing In The Dark.
The Loyalties - ‘Til The Death of Rock & Roll
Picking up where So Much For Soho left off, ‘Til The Death of Rock & Roll is the new album from The Loyalties. The title alludes to the idea that Rock n Roll is a dying art and given the state of popular music at the moment you may be inclined to believe that, but where The Loyalties are concerned, the heart of Rock n Roll is still very much alive.
From beginning to end you are met with heaps of heartful melodies, powerful riffs and anthemic choruses, giving way for the band to stand out as one of the best in the UK punk scene at the moment.
After a short intro, the title track kicks things off nicely, a cracker of an opener and sets the tone perfectly for the rest of the album perfectly. Meat in the City follows and is catchy as hell, short, sweet and bouncy, probably one of my favourites actually. Whisky Under the Bridge and To The Flames are full of attitude, but also a lot of melody despite their riotous approach. Ashtray’s Empty is another standout track, again incredibly catchy and a killer hook to match. One Reason has a very familiar feel, very akin to a Rancid tune maybe, but another great song, just one of many.
The Loyalties may not be breaking the mould with what they have produced here, but that doesn’t matter, at all. They have enough passion behind what they do, the music stands out, they believe in what they do and their music has a real honesty to it, you can tell. Full on punk rock, full of feeling, no auto tuned or overdubbed rubbish, real music from real people. Truthfully, there isn’t a band song on here, and the album tells a tale from start to finish.
Actually, this is somewhat true as the album comes hand in hand with the novel of the same name. The book tells the story of a gruesome tale set on a tourbus leading to the demise of a band member, resulting in a ‘who done it’ type scenario. The album provides the soundtrack to the story, and as a package it is incredibly clever and very well thought out, a real treat for any fan. Invest yourself in something special and long live The Loyalties!
You can get your copy of the album over at http://theloyalties.bandcamp.com/ where it is available to download, or as the CD/Book package.
Paloma Faith - Newcastle Academy, 31.1.13
The night starts off with support act Josephine (accompanied by a guitarist she introduces as Steve). Whilst she has a good, powerful voice in a Grace Slick from Jefferson Airplane kind of way, the songs are a bit samey on first listen, and the crowd seem to talk over them for the most part. Still, vocally she is talented and maybe if the songs were more familiar they’d be a more enjoyable act.
Headliner Paloma Faith has a simple start. Just her, backing singers and pianist are onstage as she starts with Fall To Grace’s Let Your Love Walk In, before the curtain opens to reveal the band half way through. She’s often described as just a quirky singer, but it’s a shame to have her written off as just that. Her live show has elements of theatre, burlesque and drama in it, and an excellent band who are very much part of the show, rather than just being hidden away as a bunch of hired hand backing musicians; Paloma Faith is very much the lead character in this production though. Vocally she is spot on and with her between song banter she is likable and witty and she and her band seem to genuinely enjoy being onstage. Towards the end of the set, her announcement that it is the end of the show is met with such a chorus of booing that she suggests a last minute addition of the Etta James classic I’d Rather Go Blind. It takes the band off guard (causing a brief confusion over which guitar was right for this unexpected set list change), but it adds a nice unexpected extra and makes it feel less like a by the book set that some artists play. The biggest cheer of the night seemed to be for her cover of Never Tear Us Apart, as heard in the John Lewis adverts recently, but hopefully this doesn’t mean she’ll be written off as “that quirky singer who did that INXS song”, because she has so much more to offer than that.
Hey!Hello! - Hey!Hello!
Hey!Hello! is a one off project brought to you by the one and only Ginger Wildheart, featuring the vocal duties of the lovely Victoria Liedtke who is also part of his solo touring band. It comes as part of the legendary Wildhearts frontman’s second Pledge Music campaign, and it displays a poppier side to the regular eclectic rock we may be used to from Ginger.
It was sold to us as ‘noisy pop’, and that is pretty much spot on. Huge sing along choruses and a sunny outlook, coupled with powerful riffs and thumping drums, it is infectious from the get go. Pop as a genre is often overlooked, never seen as cool, or just kids play, but Hey!Hello! makes it ok to add a little sugary sweet flavour to your usual listening habits. No shying away from it, the energy gets you.
There is wave after wave of positivity, not just with the music but lyrically also. A tale of rising above the bad day and all the grimness of life, and a message of reassurance. For example, in Feral Days, ‘Hey it’s ok, not all days, can be beautiful days’. How I Survived the Punk Wars really stands out for me on the record. A fantastically written tale of the music and recording industry from the perspective of Ginger. The album is packed with hit after hit, no dud or filler in sight. Swimwear, Lock for Rock (and other sporting cliches) and Black Valentine are all perfect pop songs with extra bite.
Ginger himself plays every instrument on this record showing his multi-talented skills as a musician as well as a fantastic song writer. Liedtke’s voice is the perfect accompaniment to Ginger’s. The pair are harmonised and bittersweet in places. The record highlights Victoria’s vocals and it wouldn’t sound the same without her addition.
Hey!Hello! is a short album, but it demands listen after listen, it wants you to hear it again and again, instantly accessible. The first in a wave of releases from Ginger’s latest Pledge campaign, it is a great place to start. Something a little different, it blew me away.
You can still continue to pledge over at http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/gingerwildheartmutation. Remember, we want to revolutionise the music industry and take it back to what it supposed to be all about, the music.
Classic Album Review : David Bowie - Hunky Dory
After a hiatus, David Bowie returned to the music scene this month with a new single and the promise of a new album in March. To celebrate the great innovator’s return to the music business we take a look back at one of his greatest albums Hunky Dory.
Released in 1971, it was Bowie’s fourth studio album and took on a more mellow pop sound in comparison to its precursor The Man Who Sold The World. The first five tracks on the album are almost faultless. ‘Changes’ is the most famous track on the album, and also the first track, which works well for first time listeners as it eases you in with something familiar before moving on to lesser known songs. The next four tracks on the album (‘Oh! You Pretty things’, ‘Eight Line Poem’ ‘Life On Mars’ and ‘Kooks’) are all sublime examples of Bowie at his best. ‘Kooks’ is the standout track of the four, a soft letter of affection from the artist to his then young son, it manages to be tender and puts across not only the love Bowie has for his child, but also explore his own fears and insecurities relating to his new role as a father.
It is unfortunate then that the album loses it’s way after that, until the final two tracks at least. ‘Quicksand’ ‘Fill Your Heart’ ‘Andy Warhol’ and ‘Song For Bob Dylan’ may be disappointing for Bowie, but they’re not bad songs by any stretch of the imagination. Mick Ronson’s lead guitar remains mesmerizing throughout all of them, as does Trevor Bolder’s bass, indeed the problem on these tracks seems to be that the parts don’t quite fit together as well as you would expect.
If those tracks are a disappointment, then the final two cuts on Hunky Dory are a pleasant surprise. ‘Queen Bitch’ and ‘The Bewlay Brothers’ are masterpieces even for someone of Bowie’s talent. ‘Queen Bitch’ is a short sharp sting of rock ‘n’ roll at it’s finest. Written as a tribute to Lou Reed, the song perfectly captures the feeling of desiring a woman who knows just how attractive she is. It is however a complete contrast stylistically to the album’s closer ‘The Bewlay Brothers’, a stripped back ballad that Bowie intended to make little sense. He did this with a curiosity as to how the American Market would interpret it. Any song with the line ‘I’m starving for me gravy’ is worth checking out, let alone when the line is in a ballad.
Hunky Dory is perhaps not Bowie’s finest work, but it offers a wide variety of his styles all in one place, and does boast some masterpieces of pop rock. The album was followed by Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars, which saw Bowie catapulted to fame, and the musical seeds for that album were clearly planted here, and as such, it comes highly recommended.
Songs to Spotify: ‘Life On Mars?’ ‘Kooks’ ‘Queen Bitch’
Valve Rider - Bring It On Heavy
There’s plenty of new bands about looking for their big break, but do they have what it takes to make it? For Valve Rider it’s a resounding yes! Utilising blues licks, funky riffs and the unique vocal tones of Adam Ward; they’re an infectious listen and one you won’t forget.
Bring It On Heavy is their first studio album and the opening motorcycle rumblings of Judge prepare to take you on a journey filled with dirty rock n roll. Their tasty hooks immediately grab your attention and Nathan Moore’s guitar work is nothing short of brilliant. Dripping in blues, he really drives the band with sharp riffs and stunning solo’s. The brilliant sleazy rhythms of Buried make this track an album highlight along with hard rock anthem, title track Bring It On Heavy. Cross The Line features some irresistible slide guitar and oozes blues tones rooted in the deep South with a punchy vocal delivery enforces the lyrical meaning of staying on someone’s good side. Mine’s A Whiskey pays tribute to Motorhead’s Bomber with it’s jumpy riff and heavy accompaniment and the pace doesn’t drop there. Valve Rider are here to pummel you with fast paced, gritty rock n roll and whilst their choice of analogue may slightly dampen their sound, they make for electric live tracks.
Valve Rider’s raw, gravelly, blues rock tones remind you what makes the genre so great and along with groups such as Black Stone Cherry and The Answer, help bring the genre back to life and relevant to the modern era.
Ginger Wildheart Birthday Show - HMV Forum, London - 17.12.12
So it is that time of year again, no not Christmas, the time when we celebrate the birthday of one of the UK’s greatest success’, Ginger. As usual he chose to celebrate by putting on a birthday gig, however this year it was extra special and saw the return of The Wildhearts for one night only! Hardcore fans old and new descended on the Forum for this extra special show ready to show their appreciation to the legendary frontman.
The set up of the night was a pretty crazy one. Not only would be get a full performance from The Wildhearts, but Ginger’s solo band were also the support, giving us two cracking sets to look forward to.
Kicking things off brilliantly were Ginger’s solo band consisting of the ultra talented bunch that is Random Jon Poole, Chris Catalyst, Rich Jones, Denzel and Victoria Liedtke. The band have toured together a lot this year, always bringing a great show, and tonight was no different. So much energy and fun and laughter in their set, pure joy to watch. Setlist wise we were treated to a few tracks from the wonderful success story 555%, some classic Silver Ginger 5 and some tracks from one of his new projects Hey!Hello! which sounded fantastic live. Alex Kane of AntiProduct joined the band for a rendition of Cheap Trick’s Surrender which was a great sing along moment, and a blasting version of Sonic Shake. A short but very sweet set, the prefect way to get the party started.
A black curtain is lowered to cover the stage, and after a brief interlude it is time for the main event. The curtain drops and cannons blow glitter all over the place, The Wildhearts are back and don’t we know it. Nothing Ever Changes But The Shoes kicked off a simply blinding set. We got TV Tan, Red Light Green Light, Sick of Drugs, plenty of sing a long moments, Mazel Tov Cocktail bringing the biggest of all closely followed by Geordie In Wonderland. Caffeine Bomb and Suckerpunch provided the craziest few minutes of the whole night, there is never a rush like the rush you get from hearing those songs live.
The band looked incredibly happy to be up there and the reaction of the crowd echoed this feeling. Ritch, a powerhouse on drums, CJ looking incredibly well on guitar, Jon Poole the ‘oldest new boy’ slotting in nicely once again and Ginger as enigmatic as ever, together giving us one hell of show. 29 x The Pain and Love U’ til I Don’t ended it all beautifully and the band leave to rapturous applause.
For the encore we are treated to Nita Nitro, a surprise but an amazing one at that, and then the whole place descends into Happy Birthday. A cake is brought on by Ginger’s son Jake, who decides to stick around and help out his dad with Vanilla Radio, a lovely moment. The guests just keep on coming as Kavus Torabi, Chris Catalyst and Dom Lawson join the band on stage for a cover of This Is The Life by Cardiacs with Ginger on drums and Random taking lead vocals, simply stunning and made more than a few gig goers very happy indeed (this one included). Warner E. Hodges up next as a special guest for a cover of Jason and The Scorchers White Lies, we are being properly spoilt this evening, the man is an epic guitarist. He sticks around for My Baby is a Headfuck where Jef Streatfield also pops up, before a manic but amazing version of I Wanna Go Where The People Go where the stage is a rush of people and madness and perfect chaos.
The whole night doesn’t just feel like another gig, it is a proper party, everyone is invited and everyone is having one hell of a time. I really, sincerely hope that this is not the last we see of The Wildhearts, i hope after this fantastic display of love from the fans they decide to do a few more shows at least. We wait and see…. But if tonight was it, well what a night it was! Happy birthday Ginger you wonderful man.
(Photos courtesy of Trudi Knight Photography)