Wednesday, May 31, 2017

988. Metallica / Reload. 1997. 2/5

I wrote a review for Metallica’s previous album Load about four years ago. You can find it both here on Rate Your Music and on my blog Music From a Lifetime. It was a lengthy piece, where in essence I decried the complete revamping of the band’s sound and standing in the metal world to put out such a disappointing load of old bollocks. You could save yourself some time here by either reading that and applying it also to Reload or by just ignoring both. Because there is no joy here from the rubble of that release.

The fact that this album came out fairly soon after Load, and was titled Reload was a concern. Was it all written together? Whether it was or wasn’t, a mere 16 months passed between the release of the two, whereas five years had passed between Load and Metallica, and there had been talk of releasing the two as a double album. The danger then was always that given they decided against that idea and released them as separate albums the band had chosen the best songs they had written at the time and placed them on the first release, leaving the second choice tunes to be collated here on the second album. If that is indeed the case, it doesn’t say much for the whole writing sessions.
“Fuel” is the one song – the only song – that could hold its place on a Metallica album from the previous decade. Even then, it isn’t as fast and furious here as it is when it is played live, but it opens the album on the right foot, and no doubt there were millions of fans all over the world like me who, when they first put this album on, thought that this was the return of the band they knew, that the previous album was perhaps just an aberration.
But from “The Memory Remains” onwards, there is a real constant groove, and by that I mean it isn’t fast and it isn’t overtly heavy, it is more a pattern where the drums and guitar find their groove and sit with it. Does it sound good? There’s no doubt it is catchy in places, and James’ current vocals suit the style. But is it heavy? My word no. Or is it anything like the kind of stuff that we grew up with? My word no. “Devil’s Dance” takes a similar approach, really focusing on the downward pitch of the vocals to implicate a slow and steady line throughout.
“The Unforgiven II” is most definitely unforgiven. It is an abomination. I don’t care how much they loved the first transition of this song on Metallica. It had already been a running joke in our circle of friends that Metallica would do a sequel to their other brain numbingly boring song “Nothing Else Matters”, and call it “Something Else Matters”. How close were we with the arrival of this song? And this is truly a whole pile of rubbish. There is nothing here that inspires the senses, it really does just make you run screaming for the skip button. “Better Than You” would probably be okay if it had and speed at all, forcing its way through the averageness to be a heavier faster song. Alas no such luck.
“Slither”. Is it a groove? Is it a crawl? I don’t know but it is just a borefest. “Carpe Diem Baby” honestly lulls you off to sleep, such is the lack of inspiration and the soothing flow of guitar and vocals. Yes, soothing flow. Doesn’t sound like a metal record does it? Sounds like an easy listening collection. “Bad Seed” is much like “Better Than You” in that with a burst of energy perhaps it would be better than it turns out to be. “Where the Wild Things Are” is most definitely NOT where the wild things are, because we have a really dull, boring and lifeless rhythm riff throughout the whole song with whatever vocal technique James wants to use here. And it goes on forever! It’s just not an aesthetically pleasing song in any way shape or form.
“Prince Charming” is pretty much the most upbeat song on the album. Not that that is saying much, but after the meandering snoozefest that has come before it, at least you start to wake up once this song comes on. However, “Low Man’s Lyric” fights hard with “The Unforgiven II” for worst song on the album. Honestly, is this what we’ve been reduced to, judging worst songs on a Metallica album instead of how do we choose a favourite? This is rubbish of the highest order. “Attitude” tries to convince us that the band still has it. ‘Born into attitude’ is what James sings to us, but who are they kidding? There’s no grunt here, no high paced drums or guitar, just lyrics over a mid-tempo song without any aggro or bent. Seriously, are they trying to have us buy into this? It’s a groove, not a thrash. It’s not even really heavy, it’s a standard hard rock song that AC/DC could do better. “Fixxxer” closes out this collection of songs in much the same way as the rest of the album. Too long, too slow, reflective not reactive.

This is unrecognisable as a Metallica album. Truly, play it back-to-back with any of their first four albums, and you could only make the assumption that this is two completely different bands. And the length of time between those two eras isn’t that damn long. This came out in 1997, just eleven years after Master of Puppets, and nine years after ...And Justice for All. It is a huge leap between genres in such a relatively short space of time. But this was the way metal was heading in America at the time. Thank goodness for Europe, which was embracing speed and power in their metal rather than head down the track of stripped back Southern influence bluesy groove alternative grunge music. It’s a far cry from the pantheon of metal to the depths that this album dives to. Perhaps even more tragically, the bottom for Metallica’s music (but certainly not popularity) had perhaps not even been reached yet.

Rating:   "Give me fuel, give me fire, give me that which I desire"   Which isn't this.  2/5

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Champions Trophy Favourites Can Only Lose It Themselves

Whether or not the Champions Trophy floats your boat, there is a mild interest in seeing what will happen in a tournament that runs just for a tick over two weeks instead of the six weeks of the last World Cup, and how each nation will perform given a single loss could be enough to see them out of the competition. Can England succeed at home with the pressure of local fans expecting them to win bearing upon them? Can South Africa avoid their choking tag to finally win a semi-major tournament and get that monkey off their back? Will India be able to adapt away from home having spent much of the last 18 months on their own flat surfaces? Will Australia’s pay dispute with the home board interrupt the thoughts processes of their cricketers in this tournament? Can any of the other four teams – New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh or Pakistan – cause an upset and force their way into a semi-final?

On the surface, it does appear that the first four teams would have to shoot themselves in the foot to miss a finals place, while the other four all have nothing to lose in going hard to knock them off. And perhaps that is where the fortunes will lie. Nerves could conceivably work against both England and South Africa given their histories in major tournaments, which over confidence has beaten a path past Australia and India before. New Zealand and Sri Lanka often bob up and knock off more highly fancied opponents in these competitions, while Pakistan is always a real wild card and Bangladesh has improved markedly in recent times.

For Bangladesh, you would think everything would have to click for them to progress. They would need two wins against their three opponents, the home team and the two finalists at the last World Cup. It’s a big ask. So much depends on their batsmen getting a big enough score for their bowlers to bowl at, and seaming conditions won’t help that. They aren’t out of it, but really would need everything to go in their favour to progress to the finals.
New Zealand have struggled a bit recently, and need to find form quickly to rectify that. The batsmen can’t get a run, and their attempt at finding solid all round options in the middle order isn’t happening. Luke Ronchi looks to be their option at the top order to replace Brendan McCullum, but if he and Guptill and Williamson don’t make big runs the Black Caps are under enormous pressure, especially as the bowling attack doesn’t have the same teeth as two years ago. They need to beat either Australia or England to progress, which may be their semi-final come early.
Australia is investing heavily in pace with the ball and fire with the bat. At the moment their toughest job is narrowing down which eleven they are going to play with Finch, Lynn and Maxwell all conceivably fighting for one place, and Hastings and Zampa trying to get in past the four thunderbolt bowlers. No matter what, their key appears to be the skipper Steve Smith, who seems to be able to explode if the team gets a good start, or rebuild and dominate if early wickets go down. To beat Australia you need to get Smith early and pressure the middle order. But if you look at the form of those around him – Warner, Head, Finch, Maxwell, Henriques, Lynn, Stoinis – it’s going to be a tough ask. And then to try and get through Starc, Hazlewood, Cummins and Pattinson… well… good luck.
England under Trevor Bayliss has found its ODI feet, and has shown they are not only capable of chasing down totals but also defending them, as they did against South Africa the other night. The top four of Roy, Hales, Root and Morgan is solid, and along with Stokes, Buttler and Ali in the middle are making big scores. The bowling still appears of a slightly lesser class, but the home pitches should suit whoever they end up going with.
The key game in this group would appear to be the match between England and New Zealand next Tuesday. The winner of that match will likely be one of the semi-finalists.

India has mixed and matched its squad again after the IPL, with the inclusion of M. S. Dhoni still a positive for the team. On first reading of the squad, there are players who many would know little about outside of India and the team may therefore be taken a little lightly. However they are now all experienced in the short form of the game and will be tough to beat. The main consideration will be playing outside of India for the first time in a long time, and whether that affect their performance. One suspects there will be little spin for Ashwin and Jadeja to exploit.
South Africa return once again as one of the favourites, but with the continuing pall over their heads that a major competition offers them. Their batting should be their strength, with the ability to explode at any stage with players like Amla, de Kock, du Plessis, de Villiers and Miller in the squad. It’s the bowling that may be a problem, with players such as Steyn and Philander having been moved on for younger players such as Rabada and Phehlukwayo. They are still billed as equal favourites here, but they had this status at the World Cup two years ago with a vastly superior team than this one.
Sri Lanka still appear to be finding their feet after the retirements of so many of their experienced campaigners since the World Cup. Their success would require every member of the team to be playing at their very best in every game. While many of the players have been in and around the squad for a few years, it is still the old stagers such as Mathews and Malinga who appear to be their best chance of success. There is a major question mark over their ability to score enough runs to be competitive.
Pakistan will again be the team to watch, if only for the fact that they could be rolled for 80 or make 380. They will be banking on the pace of Amir and Wahab combined with several spin bowling options to get them through their matches, which mean success may be dependent on the surfaces they encounter. If there is any team that could win this from nowhere, it is Pakistan.
The likely key match is perhaps the India and Pakistan game on Sunday. If Pakistan win this the whole group could be blown wide open.

Whatever happens over the next couple of weeks, the standard and entertaining aspect of the cricket will be important as to the future of this tournament. If only the ‘best eight’ countries are going to be allowed to compete, leaving out the West Indies, Ireland and Afghanistan as they have, then the cricket needs to be of the highest standard or else it is a missed and wasted opportunity.

Monday, May 29, 2017

987. Metallica / S&M. 1999. 3.5/5

Given that by this stage of their careers Metallica had done just about everything, it was probably only a matter of time before they decided they should play with an orchestra supporting them, and record it, and release it. And why not. They weren’t doing anything for money anymore, it was all about artistic freedom, or something like that. For Christ’s sake, they had probably reached the final straw with me earlier in the year, when I had seen them live and they had played “Motorbreath”… unplugged. UNPLUGGED FOR FUCK’S SAKE!!! So nothing was a surprise anymore, and I showed a lack of interest for this album and subsequent video for some time after its release.

Eventually I was convinced by those around me I should check it out, that it was brilliant, that I would love it. I admit I doubted it. I felt as though the band had sucked every last morsel out of me by now (how wrong I was) and I went in with eyes and ears reasonably open considering.
In the long run there are three sections to this album. The opening third of the double album is quite superb, which probably should have been obvious given the songs that were performed and the brilliance that Metallica brings to the live environment. The Michael Kamen conducted San Francisco Symphony are fantastic on Metallica’s traditional opening of “The Ecstasy of Gold”, before the band joins them on stage for the brilliant instrumental “The Call of Ktulu”. From here the hits keep coming, enhanced by the symphony orchestra behind the band but not overbearing the band itself. “Master of Puppets”, with the crowd singing enthusiastically, sounds brilliant, as does “Of Wolf and Man”, the wonderful “The Thing That Should Not Be” and “Fuel”. All are terrific. The biggest and best surprise was how good “The Memory Remains” sounds here, so much better than the studio version with a heavier and fuller sound live than it does on the album. The first of two new songs follows, and “No Leaf Clover” is not terrible.
Next comes what I would term the middle third of the double album, and here is where I get lost. It probably isn’t the fault of the musicians involved, more the fact that the songs involved rank very low on my interest scale than the ones that have come before them. “Hero of the Day” is as boring as the studio version, “Devil’s Dance” offers nothing any more inspirational and “Bleeding Me” is long and bloated, and these three songs close out the first disc of the album in mediocrity. Then just to keep everyone in hiatus, the second disc opens with “Nothing Else Matters”. Oh dear. The following songs, some of which are great and some of which are average, just don’t seem to work with the orchestra behind them. They either don’t need that kind of backing or the backing they get doesn’t quite gel.
The final third of the album rescues this middle section for the most part, but it would be difficult for them not to. “One” followed by “Enter Sandman” and then “Battery” is a trio of closing tracks that would take some beating by any band, orchestra or not. Overall though these three songs as well are quite sufficient under their own power without any backing.

Much like the concept itself, this album is worth a listen to hear what can be done to mostly great songs if they are combined with further musical backing, before then reverting to the original concept of four guys on stage blazing away under their own power.

Rating: The great songs are still great, and the average still average. 3.5/5

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S05E18: Black Leather Jackets

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S05E18: Black Leather Jackets

Here is another episode where the story and plot is interesting enough, but it doesn’t hold my interest anywhere near to the end, where I pretty much switched off halfway through mentally and waited for the conclusion to come.

Having the three main characters as the bike riding, leather jacket wearing youths, allowing them to be avoided by all of the townsfolk works well enough, but I guess it is the love interest part of the story that holds me back. I see why it is necessary given that it is where we discover everything that these three are a part of, it’s just that it isn’t believable enough for me to invest in. And when the end comes around, and Scott decides to try and convince Ellen to run away with him, only for the inevitable conclusion to arise, it just doesn’t feel… enough. Something is missing. Probably just my interest.

Rating: Hell bent for leather. 3/5

Saturday, May 27, 2017

APJSC Under 10 Whites vs Lakeside Black

“Winning isn’t everything, but wanting it is.” - ARNOLD PALMER.

For Albion Park Junior Soccer Club Under 10 Whites, it has been a season of not winning, but wanting to win, and every week getting that one step closer to doing so. And today, they achieved that first victory in their match against Lakeside Black at Webb Park.

Two players down due to the absence of Kyan Van Helden and Indy Middleton, Lakeside graciously offered one of their extra players to Park to make the teams even on the field. Early on it didn't look as though it was going to help too much, as lakeside scored early, though it was called back for an offside, the first such penalty of the year awarded as the Under 10's begin to come to grips with the rule. However, they were not to be denied, and scored thirty seconds later when Jack-Ryan Eberwein forgot he was a goalie and could use his hands, and in trying to clear the ball with his trademark huge boot missed and the ball dribbled into the back of the net.

But today was a different tale, and the Park players were switched on from the start. After good leadup down the right our loaned Lakeside player Chris had a wide shot at goal, and the goalie fumbled three times to allow the ball into the net, and it was 1-1. This was followed up shortly after with good work from Noah Black which led to Chris scoring his second goal against his own team, and Park led 2-1, for only the second time this season the Whites were in front.

The next five minutes saw a lot of great play go unrewarded. Claire Kadwell was playing well up forward and being well supported by Zoe Middleton and Noah in midfield. Noah hit the post with a shot that rebounded away, Claire's shot went wide, Zoe almost managed to plant the ball into the net, and Brock Young, who is a brand new person with his new bionic eyes having been inserted during the week (OK, he got contacts but that doesn't sound as cool) ran the ball right across the face of the goals, and almost managed to dribble it past the keeper, only to be denied right on the line. It was great attacking play.

Eventually it was Jack Tate who took the initiative, and found a way to get past the keeper to lock away another goal and extend the lead to 3-1. A few minutes later he again made a great run, beating at least five defenders before shooting for goal only to have an opponent in the way. However, the referee call handball, and so from the penalty spot Jack lined up and drove in his second goal for the morning, and the lead was an almost unbelievable 4-1.

By now the Whites were on top and dominating field position. Claire Kadwell took the ball from almost the halfway line and made a superb run through the middle of the field almost to the goal line, where Noah took his chance and put the ball in the back of the net to bring up Park's 5th goal of the morning. On the few occasions Lakeside had managed to penetrate the midfield it was Belle Kadwell and Josh Peters on duty to retrieve the ball, as well lakeside's Chris who was sweeping in when necessary. On the stroke of half time he also broke away again to score his third goal for the half, no doubt to the chagrin of his team and supporters. At half time, Albion Park led 6-1.

Lakeside made a change of player for the Whites, with Chris returning to his team's colours and being substituted with Cooper, who also played well even though it was against his team. He indeed began to be targeted by his own players and I think he actually took pleasure in being on the winning side. He played well.

The break hadn't stopped the Whites team, and they dominated possession, were faster to the ball, maintained their fitness throughout and didn't give an inch. In short, their second half here was as good as every other second half this season. With a lead to defend, the back three were superb in the second half. Brock had gone in to goals, and though he only had to make two saves, his bionic eyes were in perfect order. Noah and Belle combined wonderfully and perfectly, attacking any raid from their opponents and defusing it superbly. They were both terrific, and not a goal got past these three in the second half. Up front the "Jack Attack" of Jack Tate and Jack-Ryan Eberwein were ruthless - Jack Tate wending and winding his way through opponents, Jack-Ryan getting his big right boot into the ball. Zoe fought well down the left wing, as the perfect vessel between Noah and Jack, getting the ball through excellently with some wonderful passing and tackling. Down the right wing was the tireless Claire and Josh. Josh had a dozen attacks runs down the wing beating opponents, and on three occasions got terrific passes in t his players waiting in the middle (on a Dad Note, he probably should have done it more often and earlier, but you can't have everything...), while Claire didn't stop, chasing down bigger opponents if they got away on that wing, and then running it back upfield once she had dispossessed them. She was the Energizer Bunny today, I thought she was fantastic. 

There were three goals in the second half, all to Jack Tate, who finished with five for a fabulous day. His first was set up by a great run and then superb pass from Josh, before Jack wound his way to the goal. His second was put on by Lakeside's Cooper who beat two players and then passed straight to Jack's feet for him to score, while his third was courtesy of a long run and then several shots taken by Jack-Ryan and Claire before Jack finished off. The end result was a 9-1 victory for the Whites, and their first win of the year, to the adoring applause of the team's parents supporter base.

Player of the Match this week went to Noah Black, who was excellent as right half in the first half before being terrific as sweeper in defense in the second half. Well played Noah.

Having started with a quote I should end with a quote.

“At a young age winning is not the most important thing… the important thing is to develop creative and skilled players with good confidence.” - ARSENE WENGER.

I think it is safe to say that this bunch of kids are showing the benefits of this.

Friday, May 26, 2017

986. Metallica / St. Anger. 2003. 1.5/5

My fondest memory of this album was its release, when Utopia Records in Sydney had a midnight opening to be the first place in the world to sell the new album. My circle of friends travelled up, drank beer in a bar for 6 hours beforehand, then went in with a few hundred others, getting other material and then waiting in line to pay for those and collect a copy of the album, all the while listening to it over the store’s stereo. One of my mates enquired as to what was the rubbish they were playing, and when he was informed it was Metallica’s new album, the reason we were there, he used some language and decreed he would not be wasting his money on this abomination. As it turned out we were pretty much at the end of the line, such that when we reached the counter they had sold out of the album we had come for. Some of us were furious. I just laughed. An evening well spent, especially when I walked into K-Mart three days later and got the album for $13 less than I would have paid.

In the same way as we knew how the recording of the Metallica album went down because it was filmed and released, we have the same here with St. Anger because of the documentary “Some Kind of Monster”. So we know there was anguish when Jason left the band before writing and recording. We know there was anguish when James went into rehab. We know there was pain and anguish when he could only be in the studio for four hours a day as a part of his rehab. It’s a wonder they got anything coherent recorded at all. Certainly the process throughout was flawed. All I know is that it was better than Jason’s new band Echobrain’s album.
But how much better? The putrid taste of Load and Reload still hung in the mouth, and all we had was a hope that the band also realised they had been a mistake and that we would gain something that was a lot closer to the material we wanted. Well. We didn’t. We got something that was almost completely unexpected and unreconciled. We got an album that was what they called as ‘stripped down’. The problem was, it was stripped of everything. The band went from being produced to overkill to barely needing a producer at all. From all reports, they wanted the album to sound like it was recorded in a garage. Well, challenge completed, because that’s exactly what it sounds like. But why the amateur hour? It defies all logic. But looking at the album, logic seems to have gone out the window. For example, let’s look at the following:
1. Lars’ drum kit and drum sound. In the good old days, Lars had the greatest drum kit, and played it as the greatest drummer in the world. His drum sound was what drummers aspired for. Now, he has a three piece kit, and the sound of the kit is deplorable. Well to be accurate, the snare. The snare sound, apparently produced by turning off the mic to it during recording, is deplorable. And what is worse, it is there for the whole bloody album. No matter how I am feeling about the album, I just keep coming back to that bloody snare. It sounds AWFUL!! It detracts from every damn song on the album. Garage bands all over the world try to find any way possible to eradicate this snare sound from their dodgy four track recordings in order to have it sound like the Metallica drum sound on their albums from the 1980’s, and yet Lars goes out and embraces this amateurish sound. It is the single biggest problem with this album. Once you add to this that a seven year old could play the drums as written and recorded on this album and you have to wonder exactly what has happened to the man who was once idolised by every drummer in the world.
2. James vocals. Having crooned his way through the 1990’s having had to transform the way he sang due to blowing out his voice, he comes in here on St. Anger and seems to move into a scream and yell combination that might indicate he has had enough of that. The problem is, it comes across as forced. No one expects him to be able to sing like he did when he was 19 years old, but the middle ground between that and what he had been doing is not this. Thankfully he found it later, but for the most part his vocals on this album are again like a kid in a garage band, one who knows he can’t sing great but he will overcome it with attitude. Mind you, with that godawful drum sound to have to sing over perhaps this was the only way he could get heard over the din.
3. No Kirk solos. This was always a major, major problem for a band that has a lead guitarist in it, and one of the best at that. Just because the current mood of nu-metal when this was recorded had a directive that meant all the guitars had to mesh into one doesn’t mean you have to follow! All it did was forever tie this album to this time in metal history, one that will never be fondly remembered, and also completely waste one member of your band from not only expressing himself but from adding his own flavour to the songs and the album as a whole. Just really poor thought processes there.
4. Bob Rock on bass. He’s a competent player, and in general ever since Cliff Burton passed Metallica has tried to hide the bass on their albums anyway, but the individuality of a band bass player is basically also missing here.
On top of this, because of the way it is recorded with just Lars and James being relevant and heard and because of the length of the songs that never change throughout, this album feels like one long painful song. Yes, if you walked past a garage and heard a band jamming in there for an hour and a half straight, it would probably sound just like this. That is a long time for little variation, and to have to put up with listening to that fucking snare.

There are bits and pieces of songs that I like on this, but really no songs in total that I enjoy from start to finish. I tried to like it, if for no other reason than I thought the band was trying to make amends for their previous dive for the depths, but on reflection this actually washes up to be worse than those, for those reasons stated above. Again, there is every probability that if I was of a different generation I would have embraced this thoroughly because other generations grew up with nu metal and enjoyed it. That’s not me though, and though a couple of these songs do sound better in a live environment, overall this is a major disappointment.

Rating: “I’m madly in anger with you”. Yes, I’m talking to you Lars! 1.5/5

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S05E17: Number 12 Looks Just Like You

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S05E17: Number 12 Looks Just Like You

So here is another episode of the future, a dystopian one where everyone goes through a procedure to make them more beautiful which also coincidentally extends their life expectancy. So what’s not to like?

Well, I enjoy the fact that there are pretty much only three actors playing all of the roles, specifically because they are the ‘templates’ that are used for the procedure. As a result, it is acted well between them, and also filmed well to incorporate different characters played by the same actor or actress. It’s just that the actual story line doesn’t seem to have any momentum. It sags along in the middle once the initial plot is revealed, and doesn’t ever really move to a conclusion that we thought would otherwise occur. Sure, it takes some time for our protagonist to go through with the procedure, at which time she is now happy and thrilled with her change which tends to suggest her personality was changed as well as her looks. And the end result is happiness all round. Except maybe for the viewer.

It works okay, it’s just that for me there was no plot explosion or tipping point, and the end result came to pass as expected. A little disappointing.

Rating: Mama we’re all crazy now. 3/5

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S05E16: The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S05E16: The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross

I must admit I went into this episode with some doubts as to how it could work well, and had visions that it would come across like many recent episodes had, with a good idea that just doesn’t pan out as well as you would have expected.

I was wrong.

I was impressed with this episode, especially the portrayal of the protagonist Salvadore, played wonderfully well by Don Gordon, in a much better role than his previous appearance in the Twilight Zone in the episode “The Four of Us Are Dying”. Here he is excellent as the man who discovers he can trade physical and mental aspects with another agreeable person, and once he discovers this power he finds a way to get everything that he wants – wealth, power, returned youth. All of this is in an effort to gain the love of the girl he is interested in, whose father is wary of allowing her to join with him.

Everything about this episode works, and especially the end, with the final confrontation between Salvadore and Mr Maitland. It couldn’t have come together any better. An interesting and enjoyable episode.

Rating: Don’t you remember? I sold that to you yesterday! 5/5

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

985. Metallica / Metallica. 1991. 4/5

The anticipation leading up to the release of Metallica back in 1991 was almost unbearable. In the three years leading up to it we had had ...And Justice for All blow us away, followed by our first sighting of the band in Australia on the Damaged Justice tour which was unbelievable. Then a few short weeks before its release the single “Enter Sandman” had been released, and again caused an outbreak of mayhem. It was a foregone conclusion that the new album was going to be amazing and none of us could wait to hear it. Perhaps we expected too much. For parts of it, we didn’t expect what we got.

No doubt the experience of this album was different for those that didn’t grow up in the 1980’s and grew up with the first four Metallica albums as the template you expected. Those that came in at this point probably have a greater love for what Metallica ended up producing through the 1990’s as a result, because Metallica set the new blueprint in place. Overall it is of a more even tempo, a less frantic and more mature sound, utilising more grooves than out-and-out duelling riffs and a much more simplified drum technique. All Metallica fans know about how the album came to be made, it was all filmed and released on the “A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica” video. Bob Rock came in as producer, James blew his voice out, there was a feeling from within the band that they needed to continue to adapt. On its release and it having been digested by all over a matter of months, there were (and are) those who felt it was a sell out by the band, a deliberate softening of their sound in order to gain radio airplay and make more sales. Most of the evidence available at that time and since suggests this isn’t the case. In the first instance, you wouldn’t say that a song like “Sad But True” is a softened song simply because the tempo is reeled right back. In the second instance, this album becomes a bridge to the following two albums, where the style of songs that the band produced headed further in the direction this one had taken from its predecessor. It is just the start of the path, and if it was selling out for more money then surely the backlash that occurred during the decade from their core fan base was enough to show that it wasn’t going to work. Instead, the band went in the direction they wanted to for their own reasons, not the call of the dollar.
In 1991, my initial reaction to the album was positive. When you are 21, you seem to have more time to listen to the same album a hundred times in a week, and I’m pretty sure this is what I did with Metallica. The opening track I was already more than familiar with, as “Enter Sandman” had not only infiltrated all of the music video shows but had even creeped onto the radio in places. I loved the slow heated rage of “Sad But True” with the nuances and range that James uses to push his emotions through. The return to the fast paced “Holier Than Thou” spitting at you from out of the speakers always increase the heart rate. The majestic rising and falling of “Wherever I May Roam” has that atmosphere that drives your emotions faster than you would imagine the tempo of the song could. “Don’t Tread on Me” was harder to get into, its song structure always felt more offbeat than I was comfortable with. Then the drive into “Through the Never” erased any doubts and always brought back those glad tidings. “Of Wolf and Man” was another immediate favourite, one I would sing at the top of my lungs in my downstairs bedroom. “The God That Failed” I always cast in the same category as “Don’t Tread on Me” as one of those middle range songs. The mood created by Jason Newsted’s bass riff at the start of “My Friend of Misery” would send chills down my spine when it started, and the closing song “The Struggle Within” is probably the song that most closely relates to the thrash roots of the band, with the speed, complexities and heavy riff always finishing off the album on a great note. While it was the first Metallica album that I didn’t absolutely love all the way through from start to finish, I still played it for months and loved it as best I could.

As that happy and carefree 21 year old, I was never able to reconcile the two problem songs of the album, and as a happy and careworn 47 year old I still have the same problems today. “The Unforgiven” never ever sat easy with me. Can I tell you why? Not exactly, no. As many thought at the time, it felt like a ‘radio-friendly’ song, one that would appease those who listened to commercial radio. And “Nothing Else Matters” was and even firmer example. It broke the Metallica mould well and truly. Of course, the ballad was a well-known entity in the metal world, but for the most part it was a feared entity for my generation. We could take them from bands such as Scorpions and Motley Crüe because that was a part of their makeup, but it wasn’t a part of Metallica’s DNA, and that was scary.
I always came back to these types of Metallica songs by comparing them to “Fade to Black”, which isn’t a radio-friendly song but was the slower paced, clear guitar, soulful vocal song from the band’s past that you could judge these songs against. Because there is no selling out with “Fade to Black”, it is just an awesome piece of song writing and music. Listen to it, and then listen to “The Unforgiven” and “Nothing Else Matters”, and judge the difference between them. I’ve said this before, but maybe if I came across Metallica at the age of 14 in 1991 these songs would resonate with me as much as “Fade to Black” does with me in my own age bracket. Is it just a timing thing – that because I grew up with the early albums and can’t cotton onto these two songs because I expected more, then and now? That argument could be made and would make for a worthwhile discussion. The conclusion for me here is that these did sound like radio songs and that is what they became. Even listening to them today, and especially their performance at concerts I have attended, they just left me feeling flat.

With the groundwork set, the path for Metallica’s progression (or regression) in the 1990’s was laid down here. In 1991 I loved this album but with reservations. In the changing world of music at the time where grunge was exerting its influence no one knew how much heavy metal was going to be affected. This album still stands as a testament to Metallica’s ability to adapt to their own maturing loves, and while it has its detractors for one reason or another there is no denying that much of this is terrific material which is still a hell of a lot better than what most bands can produce.

Rating:  “What is it, what have you got to lose”.  4/5

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S05E15: The Long Morrow

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S05E15: The Long Morrow

The science fiction tales of the series are generally my favourite, and it is all about the twist at the end that takes you in. Both of those apply here, but the majority of the story is not about the science fiction aspect, but more to do with fatal attraction and the consequences.

Commander Stansfield has gotten his dream post – a journey into space to a system 141 light years from Earth. A new spaceship can break the speed of light, but his round trip will still take 40 years, though he will barely age as he will be in suspended animation. As he prepares though, he of course decides to fall in love, just as he is about to leave for his 40 year mission, meaning when he returns he will still be the same age but Sandra will be 40 years older. 

OK, now this is where the story gets silly, and just a bit beyond comprehension. Firstly, these two fall hopelessly in love in one evening. Great. Then the round trip ends, and we find Sandra is the same age, because she decided to go into suspended animation for 40 years so she would be the same age when Stansfield returns. Really? Leave all your family and friends for that? And then Stansfield reveals he didn’t go into suspended animation, instead living alone in a tin can for 40 years so he would return as the same age that Sandra would be. Really? How did he live with no food or water for 40 years?

This story has so many holes it becomes a farce. The idea is reasonable, but come on, I’m not going to buy this without considering all of the aspects!

Rating: Now there is a wasted life for you. 3.5/5

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Stephen King Book #11: Danse Macabre. 3/5

Book #11. Danse Macabre.
First published April 20, 1981.

Danse Macabre was a book that I had never read until the past couple of weeks. The main reason for this was that I have never owned a copy of the book, nor found one readily available in book shops, nor in any library I had been a member of. When it came to tracking down a copy for this journey I still had no joy in finding a copy with a friend or a book shop or the library. So I began to search online and, bugger me, there I found a site that hosted a pdf copy of the entire book, just sitting there waiting for me to read it. Thus I could progress.

For those not in the know, this is a non-fiction book by King focusing on the horror genre in written, radio, TV and movie form. In it he speaks of his experiences with the genre throughout, and of those parts that he thinks made important contributions not only to his own works but to those around him who also influenced himself and others. And in this respect, although there are places within the pages that are interesting, the majority tends to be a bit of a hard slog. This is for no other reason except that this was published in 1981, and concentrates on an era when he himself grew up. This being the case a lot of his source material, both books and filmed, are of an era that is not as widely known in this day and age as it would have been then. Some of it is, the most popular in essence, but only the hardest core readers and watchers of this era of works will be sure of exactly what he talks about. Much of it I have not been exposed to, especially when it comes to those horror films of his youth.

I thoroughly enjoyed his dissection and comparison in Chapter 2 – Tales of the Tarot – of three seminal works. His thoughts in regards to Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”, Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” and Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” and the three monsters who are the title characters is entertaining and thoughtful. It discusses them in detail, as well as how they have been the flag bearers for those duplicates that have come since, as well as the many and varied interpretations. Indeed within those three creations can be found much of what followed in many varied forms.
The other sections of the book are informative, but only as much as you find any interest in them. While I felt like I was trudging through a snowdrift at time such was the difficulty in making progress, there was more than enough interesting dissection of the different sections to keep you moving forward.

So while this is a book that has some interesting passages, as a non-fiction book it is not like his novels, where we get the characters and the story and we are taken along for a ride. Instead we have a handbook, a basis for which to explore the media of the genre if you are so disposed to do so. I’m sure that sometime in the future I will in fact use some of this to explore on my own. And though it is interesting it is unlikely to be a book that you return to with love. It is a book you will return to for information, and then place back on that bookshelf under “K” for King, and then grab the next book along.

Rating: For the reference section. 3/5

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S05E14: You Drive

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S05E14: You Drive

There’s always something a little bit concerning about the power of guilt and conscience and what it would do to your mental state if you found out you had caused injury or death to another person. But if you do it in the Twilight Zone you are always going to get your comeuppance.

Edward Andrews is terrific as Oliver Pope, who knocks down a young boy on a bicycle on the way home from work, but drives away without helping his victim. He hides the car in his garage and tries to put the incident out of his mind. However, things go awry when the car begins to act strangely. The headlamps flash without anyone in the car, as does the car horn. When his wife drives it the following day, it stalls at the spot of the accident and won’t go on. Then it begins playing the news broadcast of the accident over and over again. When a work colleague is accused of the crime Pope does nothing to change anyone’s thoughts. Eventually, his car completely rebels, and drives itself in chase of Pope in an effort to get him to confess.

This is an enjoyable episode, with all of the cast excellent in their roles, with Andrews at his best in the role of the man trying to get away with his moment in time, only to be thwarted by the machine he used to perpetrate it. Only in the Twilight Zone.

Rating: A seat in the confessional. 5/5

984. Soundgarden / Superunknown. 1994. 4/5

Superunknown is a refinement to what the band had released in the past. For the most part the tendrils of heavy metal have been wiped clean. There are no songs here that come close to some of the material that was written and recorded on Badmotorfinger. There are some good hard rock songs, and some good alternative songs, and some songs that continue to fly the flag for the grunge scene, which was quickly moving away from its peak by the time this album was released. Perhaps it was a more commercial record, or perhaps in essence it is just that two of the singles here went gangbusters both on the music video shows as well as commercial radio.

“Let Me Drown” is a strong opening song in a classic hard rock way with hard drums and solid rhythm followed up with vocals that are forthright and at the forefront of the song. “My Wave” comes from the same production line, with Cameron’s hard hitting drums bursting out of the speakers at you followed by Cornell’s wonderful vocal lines. Songs like this, when Cornell is on song and being the driving force of the song are my favourites because everything works together and there is a force behind it, a driving desire. That still makes songs like the following track, “Fell on Black Days”, terrific in their own right, but it is a different style of song, for which there is more melancholy in both music and vocals. That this band is capable of writing and performing these two styles of songs without skipping a beat is one of their great strengths.
Whatever the process, this almost acts like Soundgarden’s vision of Sgt Peppers. It contain songs that have almost psychedelic connotations with songs such as “Mailman” and “Head Down” and “The Day I Tried to Live”, that really hold themselves back and spin out the drama. Sitting between these songs is the title track “Superunknown” which is the rock alternative to those tracks, while “Limo Wreck” is a real indulgence, a long dragged out affair that combined with “The Day I Tried to Live” combine the thoughtful slow smouldering rhythm within the tonal areas where each songs has its own break out point where the music and vocals both explode for a time. Mixed within the middle of this are the mega-singles, “Black Hole Sun” and “Spoonman”. “Black Hole Sun” disguises its intent within the clear guitar and smooth vocals before the heavier guitar comes into play, while “Spoonman” is the closest to metal this album comes in regards to drum beat and guitar, which along with that higher range vocal from Cornell initiates some blood pumping through the veins.
It will always be the upbeat songs such as “Spoonman” and “Kickstand” that I remember most fondly, because they are the ones that make a band for me. You can have your melancholy songs and your reflective tunes and those types of songs, because they have their place within the framework. But the faster upbeat songs are the ones that grab your attention and hold it for longer, because that is how they are designed. The back half of the album reigns in these songs to a degree, but that doesn’t make them any less entertaining, it perhaps just muddies up how the album finishes.

I often wonder why this album for me didn’t quite match up to the previous album, and indeed how that occurred again with the following album. More than anything else, the music was changing even if it was ever so slightly. That was necessary for the band to survive the end of the grunge era, but was perhaps at odds against themselves. On a personal level my own metal preferences were being to move towards the faster paced European bands, but in the end for me I felt as though the album tailed off, that its best work was done by two-thirds of the way through. Despite these thoughts, this is still a terrific album, one that I can still put on and enjoy thoroughly.

Rating:  “Whatsoever I've feared has come to life, whatsoever I've fought off became my life”.  4/5

Monday, May 22, 2017

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S05E13: Ring-a-Ding Girl

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S05E13: Ring-a-Ding Girl

Once again, the basis of the best Twilight Zone episodes comes not only from the slow and intriguing build up throughout the episode, but also for the conclusion to not only have that twist that you weren’t expecting, it also must be ‘believable’ in a twilight Zone kind of way.

This episode has most of the tools that make a top-flight episode. The Movie star that has never forgotten her home town, who all helped to get her where she is today and is still her best fan club. When they send her a ring as a present and she begins to see family and friends from her home town, imploring her to do things, she drops what she is doing (a new film in Rome) and heads home. While she is there, she sees several people floating into vision, and each time she is compelled to see them, and each time another piece of the puzzle falls into place as to why she is there. None of this is revealed to the viewer, and when she decides to hold an event in direct competition to one that is already scheduled in her town, her friends seem upset. It isn’t until the final reveal – when we see that she is actually on a plane that crashes in a nearby field where the other event was being held, and that her event has drawn away all of the people who would have been killed by being there – that we are dealt the final answer.

So yes, this once again utilises the Twilight Zone as an entity perfectly, and the constant reveal through the episode makes it even more satisfying when the final conclusion comes. Very entertaining.

Rating: I’m leaving, on a jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again. 5/5

983. Soundgarden / Badmotorfinger. 1991. 4.5/5

There are moments in life that can stand out amongst all other memories, that are the ones that are easily remembered when the right question is asked. When I am asked “When did you first hear Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger album?” it is an easy answer. It was on the day it was released, which was also my 22nd birthday. A mate of mine bought it that day, and insisted I come over for a beer and to listen to it. I had heard snatches of Soundgarden’s earlier material at that stage, but not a lot. What I heard that day didn’t change my life, but it certainly enhanced it.

How do you describe such an album? I wasn’t sure at the time, but this was when grunge was just beginning to take hold, with albums such as Nirvana’s Nevermind, Pearl Jam’s Ten and Alice in Chain’s Facelift also coming out, each with their own interpretation of the Seattle sound. Badmotorfinger wasn’t like those albums. It immediately had that traditional heavy metal element infused into the songs, such that I couldn’t possibly categorise the album as a grunge album. In fact, I couldn’t categorise them in any particular genre, because in many ways this album transcends that (as indeed do all of those albums mentioned). All I knew was that from the opening stanza this album was something special, and I had to get it.
For me, it is the first half of this album that does everything right. It appeals to my musical loves. I never owned this on vinyl, as by this time it was CD that had become the format for my collections, but if I had I reckon I would have worn out the first side of the album such was its pull over me. From the opening strains of “Rusty Cage” to that amazing sound the band squeezes out of “Outshined” as those vocals croon at the brilliant pitch, the two opening songs sound like studio jams with the foursome just hammering away on their instruments while someone records them in a corner. That guitar sound in “Outshined” is just fantastic.
For those that are of a mind to want to categorise this album, it’s not an easy one. Grunge had arrived and Soundgarden certainly infused that sound throughout their music, but this was mixed with the hard arsed metal guitar of Kim Thayil. “Slaves & Bulldozers” may be the perfect example of this. It has that slow tempo throughout that typified much of what grunge was, but listen to that guitar! Not only in the rhythm rumbling along the underlying song with Ben Shepherd’s cool as ice bass and Matt Cameron’s perpetual motion drumming, but also in the solo pieces he gets to add. And then Chris Cornell’s vocals, going from calm and low to the brilliant high energy scream. There is so much of Black Sabbath’s legacy within this song that surely it has to be metal! So, how do you categorise it? In the long run, if you are trying to describe the sound to a potential listener, you just have to say ‘put it on and find out for yourself’
For the metal lovers, “Jesus Christ Pose” and “Face Pollution” are the obvious winners on this album because they just hammer along and drag you into that headbanging action you know so well, and force you to try and sing along at the same pitch that Cornell does. Which is literally impossible, but you have to try, before eventually finding your own range of comfort. As “Slaves & Bulldozers” rolls almost literally into the brilliant “Jesus Christ Pose”, with that fabulous riff over Cameron’s amazing drum performance before Cornell’s vocals just take off, you can only wonder in awe at how this band puts together so many unique sounds in a collection of songs. “Jesus Christ Pose” is that song that every garage band in the world wants to play, but has four instrumental pieces combined here that are practically impossible for amateurs to play and make sound good. Bass, guitar, drums, vocals. No chance on all counts. “Face Pollution” then follows this up at speed with not so much low end guitar but plenty of flailing and energy.
I’m not going to say that this is the best section of any album ever, but while I can find others that may equal this, I cannot say that there is any better ‘first five songs on an album’ ever. So don’t get me wrong when I suggest that the second half of the album mightn’t quite stack up to the first half. I’m not saying is that it isn’t very good. That isn’t true, because the performances and songs on the second half of the album are still awesome. They are different though. They are of a slower tempo generally, and find their way into that alternative medium that is more similar to those other bands they came through the scene with.
“Somewhere” pulls back from the metal heights and finds the middle ground again in more of an alternative sound, clearer guitar. “Searching With My Good Eye Closed” is perhaps the less impactful song on the album for me after the assault of the opening songs. This is brought back into line by “Room a Thousand Years Wide” which has a great underlying riff throughout while Cornell takes control of the song with his driving vocals. “Mind Riot” and “Drawing Flies” both settle back into that comfortable mid-section of the album. The passion of Cornell’s vocals in “Holy Water” drags this from being a good song into being a terrific song. The closing track “New Damage” has that mid-range latter day Sabbath tempo with the band doing their thing while Cornell croons over the top. The sludgy, syrupy guitar, drum and vocals here is the closest indicator to the bands’ genre standing in the community.

25 years after its release, Badmotorfinger remains a hallmark of the period. It managed to draw in those punters who were beginning to take on the newly romanticised genre of grunge while also compelling those punters who were hanging on to 1980’s heavy metal to also love this, and yet it hasn’t dated. It holds true to what it was when it was recorded, and still old fans and new fans alike can put this on in this day and age and find stuff to love. Perhaps it is not for everyone, and future blockbuster albums were perhaps more accessible for the next generation, but this album is perhaps still the one that best holds true to Soundgarden’s roots.

Rating: “Now I’m in the mirror, now it’s getting clear”  4.5/5

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Review: No Cunning Plan

No Cunning Plan No Cunning Plan by Sir Tony Robinson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Most people will know Tony Robinson as the wonderful Baldrick in the Blackadder TV series, in recent years I have been just as enamored with his series of historical walks and work with the TV series Time Team. So when I was at the library last week looking for something new, this poked its head out at me.
As an autobiography, this is in depth. It is mostly quite dry reading, and if you are looking for something that is fall over laughing humorous you are in the wrong place. It has smatterings no doubt, but what this provides is a detailed run down of his life in show business, with practically every stage show he has participated in or directed or written or all three. If you aren't interested in shows that you've never heard of and are unlikely to ever see, then this may not be for you. However, if you are interested in Tony's life and loves, and how the decisions he made changed his life stream throughout, then this is a good read. It does get repetitive in places, but if you can wade through these it is rewardingly informative.

View all my reviews

Saturday, May 20, 2017

APJSC Under 10 Whites vs Coniston Gold

In the second series of Monty Python's Flying Circus, there is a sketch entitled It's The Mind, where Michael Palin tries to talk about deja-vu, where everything keeps repeating. The opening monologue goes like this:

"Good evening. Tonight on 'It's the Mind', we examine the phenomenon of deja vu. That strange feeling we sometimes get that we've lived through something before, that what is happening now has already happened. Tonight on 'It's the Mind' we examine the phenomenon of deja vu, that strange feeling we sometimes get that we've ... (puzzled look) Anyway, tonight on 'It's the Mind' we examine the phenomenon of deja vu, that strange... how... strange..."

This is a more imaginative way of opening up this weekend's soccer match report, because you have honestly heard it all before. Taking on Coniston Gold at Terry Reserve, the Albion Park Under 10 Whites again just hadn't quite switched on in the first half, and as a result they were down 3-0 at the half time break. And once again, as has happened in every match this season, they were quite superb in the second half, once again being the dominant team and didn't stop running while their opponents tired. Attacking raid after attacking raid couldn't find the goals. No less than four shots hit the posts and bounced away from the goals, while at the other end theirs hit the posts and bounced in.The Park team once again lacked only an ounce of luck, a touch of which may have changed the result.

Indy Middleton was fantastic in goals for the whole match, saving a number of chances and found himself in the right position on most occasions. Jack Tate and Brock Young, who played at the back for most of the match, were both terrific once again. Both showed a lot of hustle to chase down attackers and force the ball off them when they thought they had an open goal to shoot. Livewires. They are great to watch.The midfield of Belle and Claire Kadwell were dogged, always in the face of the opponents midfield when they were trying to clear the ball. Josh Peters and Noah Black shared midfield and forward spots, and provided for each other excellently. Noah as always was dangerous when given the ball, while Josh ran hard up and back all day, and provided the impetus upon goal when it was needed in the second half. 
Josh's strike to bring the score back to 4-1 was fantastic, and tended to shut up the opposing keeper who had been happy to sit on the ground because, as he claimed, he was bored and no one would score against him. The fact it was SHOOSH day prevented me from suggesting anything on the field after Josh scored. Josh's corners were also terrific, and found his players perfectly on the back post, and with a bit of luck up to three goals could have been scored. He also defused a number of attacks down his wing in the first half, and his passing today was spot on. I don't like to go on too much about Josh being his father and all, but he was terrific today, and the training he is getting from Matt, Shane and Dan is paying off. I was proud of his efforts today. If only he would be that good with the stuff he has to do at home.
Up forward, Jack-Ryan Eberwein and Zoe Middleton had great days. Zoe again fought hard for the ball, and some of her passing to Jack-Ryan and Noah was exceptional. Jack-Ryan again used his strength to force his way through when he could, and he is getting better each week as well. And let's not forget "SuperSub" Zali Middleton who was like a livewire again every time she was injected onto the field. A couple of her runs through the midfield were spectacular and far beyond her years. Another great appearance from her.

The scoreboard was once again against these kids, 4-1 at the end, but once again, they dominated the second half. And though it is certainly deja-vu to say it, if they can just hold their opponents in the first half, and get some much deserved luck to go their way, they will be winning games before they know it.

The Player of the Match this week was Brock Young, who defended manfully in the first half before moving to the midfield in the second half and providing great service both back and forward.

Friday, May 19, 2017

982. Operation: Mindcrime / Resurrection. 2016. 1.5/5

I guess we can be brutally honest about this. There must be someone, somewhere out there, that thinks that what Geoff Tate is doing in his current musical field with his band Operation: Mindcrime is the equal of or better than what is happening in the Queensrÿche camp. I don’t know any of them mind you, but there must be fans out there who are enjoying this stuff. And what it shows is that the split between the two should have happened a long time ago, and let Geoff do this without dictating to others what should work best for them.

You can’t argue with his work ethic though. Albums keep coming forth on a regular basis, and he tours as he feels it necessary. The fact that he celebrated the final parting with Queensrÿche by christening his new ‘band’ by the title of its most famous album, and then engaged in writing and releasing a concept album trilogy, of which this is the second chapter, makes it even more thought-provoking as to why he stuck with it for so long. No doubt the name of the band was making more money.
And so on to Resurrection, which is Part Two of this story that apparently details virtual currencies, internet banking and stock trading. Honestly I haven’t listened to the lyrical side of the songs hard enough to garner that information out of them, I just found it on Wikipedia and threw it in here. And was it not for the addition of Spotify into my life, I am quite sure I would never have heard this album because the utilising of virtual currencies, internet banking or stock trading to purchase this album was out of the question given the two albums that preceded this. So I had no illusions going in. I was probably going to hate this.
Is hate too strong a word? Having now listened to this album in full on a number of occasions, it probably is. But is there anything likeable about it? Very little as you can probably imagine, and that is simply because it is nothing like any kind of music that I do like. It’s like asking me to review anything by Justin Bieber – I don’t like his music, so any review or rating is going to be coloured by that. Resurrection more or less takes up from where The Key leaves off. It is dreary. It’s like listening to the rain at the end of Queensrÿche's “Della Brown” and expecting to hear “Another Rainy Night” but instead getting “The Queue” from the previous album. Honestly, this album goes for over an hour, but it feels like an afternoon. There is little to distinguish between the songs, they all roll into one another. Geoff’s vocals all remain monotonic for great passages, even when layered on each other. There’s more synth than guitar or drums. It almost redefines a progressive rock genre into something far less, almost into easy listening. Most of it will lull you off to sleep if you allow it. It’s not that it is all terrible, but there are parts that cannot bring out any other adjective apart from that. “Taking on the World” is the closest this album has to a hard rock song, and having brought on Tim “Ripper” Owens and Blaze Bayley to take part as guest vocalists for this one song should make it the centrepiece of the album. The fact that it is, even though it doesn’t allow Ripper to actually unleash his powerhouse vocal (perhaps for fear that it would overshadow Tate’s degenerating vocal abilities) is a shame. This is the one song on the album I can almost get on board with, and I would be lying if I said it was for any reason except for Ripper and Blaze’s appearance.

The fact that Tate has struggled gain the Operation: Mindcrime name seems absurd given that the albums are practically still a two man show, with himself and Kelly Gray doing the bulk of the instrumentation. Why not just stay as Geoff Tate or The Geoff Tate Band? Is it so necessary to market himself based on his past with his other band? Despite this, the music will still be what he is judged on, and so I come back to the way I started this review. There must be people out there who like what Tate has been writing, both here and in the last ten years of his time with Queensrÿche. I’m just not sure who they are. This album is probably a little more interesting that The Key. That’s about the best I can say about it.

Rating:  One long monotone.  1.5/5

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S05E12: Ninety Years Without Slumbering

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S05E12: Ninety Years Without Slumbering

What does it say about a story when the person who wrote the original script dislikes the extensive re-write so much that he asks to be credited under a pseudonym? This is the case here, and while that may be a bit extreme it doesn’t bode well for what lay ahead.

The concept works well enough. Our protagonist Sam Forstmann spends all of his time tinkering with a grandfather clock, that his father had purchased on the day that Sam was born. He now believes that if the clock ever stops, then he will die. This causes disruption in his household, and though he then sells it to appease his family, it is only next door so he can keep an eye on it. However, when they go away for the weekend he tries to break in to ensure it is wound, and is arrested.

Despite the appearance of Ed Wynn in the main role, this story never really kicks into gear. Even the third act scenes where Sam is talking to his spirit, announcing the clock has stopped and it is time to go, just don’t give this episode a defining moment, something that makes it unforgettable for a good reason. It’s OK, but nothing special.

Rating: Time through the clock just keeps talking. 3/5

Songs of My Life #66 - Soundgarden - Burden In My Hand - 1996

Songs of My Life #66 - Soundgarden - Burden In My Hand - 1996

The triumverate of Soundgarden albums in Badmotorfinger, Superunknown and Down on the Upside are at the top of the tree when it comes to what made the 1990's for me in regards to music. Each had its own characteristics, ranging from slow grunge to slow burners to high energy fist pumping screamers. I love every album and almost every song that these three albums contain.

My favourite all time Soundgarden song is this one, which until recent times looked as though it would be their last when the band split after this album. Listen to Chris' vocals, feel the anguish and torment, and just embrace the magnificence of the band as a whole. Their versatility and range in songwriting is what made Soundgarden so brilliant.

On the day that Chris Cornell has left us forever, this is the song I will always remember him for. Thank you Chris for being a part of our lives through your music. Rest in peace.

"Follow me into the desert
As thirsty as you are
Crack a smile and cut your mouth
And drown in alcohol
'Cause down below the truth is lying
Beneath the riverbed
So quench yourself and drink the water
That flows below her head

Oh no there she goes
Out in the sunshine the sun is mine

I shot my love today would you cry for me
I lost my head again would you lie for me
I left her in the sand just a burden in my hand
I lost my head again would you cry for me

Close your eyes and bow your head
I need a little sympathy
'Cause fear is strong and love's for everyone
Who isn't me
So kill your health and kill yourself
And kill everything you love
And if you live you can fall to pieces
And suffer with my ghost

Just a burden in my hand
Just an anchor on my heart
Just a tumor in my head
And I'm in the dark

So follow me into the desert
As desperate as you are
Where the moon is glued to a picture of heaven
And all the little pigs have God"

Vale: Chris Cornell

Follow me into the desert
As thirsty as you are
Crack a smile and cut your mouth
And drown in alcohol
'Cause down below the truth is lying
Beneath the riverbed
So quench yourself and drink the water
That flows below her head

Oh no there she goes
Out in the sunshine the sun is mine
I shot my love today would you cry for me
I lost my head again would you lie for me
I left her in the sand just a burden in my hand
I lost my head again would you cry for me
Close your eyes and bow your head
I need a little sympathy
'Cause fear is strong and love's for everyone
Who isn't me
So kill your health and kill yourself
And kill everything you love
And if you live you can fall to pieces
And suffer with my ghost
Just a burden in my hand
Just an anchor on my heart
Just a tumor in my head
And I'm in the dark
So follow me into the desert
As desperate as you are
Where the moon is glued to a picture of heaven
And all the little pigs have God

"Burden in My Hand" by Soundgarden. Written by Chris Cornell.
Copyright © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, BMG Rights Management US, LLC

Do you remember where you were when you first heard Soundgarden's Badmotorfinger album? I do. It was the day it was released, my 22nd birthday. A mate had bought it and insisted we listen to it. I will never forget the first time I heard the introduction to "Rusty Cage" and the scream of "Jesus Christ Pose". Holy crap, here was Seattle and it was bloody heavy as f@&k! Lighting up the senses!

From there came Superunknown and then Down on the Upside, which has my favourite Soundgarden song of all time, "Burden in My Hand" where Chris' vocals soar. And then into Audioslave, which was another assault. 

Chris Cornell's passing is a tragedy at the ridiculous age of 52. He had achieved so much but had so much time to do more. I'll never forget my 22nd birthday because of him, and now May 18 will always pass with the strains of "Burden in My Hand" being played in his memory.
Thanks for everything Chris. Rest in peace.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S05E11: A Short Drink from a Certain Fountain

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S05E11: A Short Drink from a Certain Fountain

Are there such people in life? In the world? I know there probably is, because most writing is based on a knowledge of such characteristics. Those of the elderly man who marries a much younger woman for actual love and perhaps to revisit their youth, and the much younger woman who marries an older man for prosperity and not for the right reasons.

Nonetheless, can we subscribe to the story as it is, as well as the scientist brother who happens to be developing a youth serum, and despite his misgivings injects his brother with it? Then we are expected to believe that the wife, who has been shown throughout to be petty and obtuse, suddenly and magnificently in awe at the new youthful husband who appears? And all the way through to the end, when the youth serum comes into full force, reducing our main part to a baby, at which point our lady friend (such as in previous episodes) is left with a conundrum – leave penniless, or stay and be a slave to the protagonist.

It’s fair to say at this point that I don’t find a lot enthralling about this episode. Even if the basis of the story was likeable I’m sure I could find a way to enjoy it. But as a three person, one room play, it didn’t engage me at all. All I was left with was a disappointing lack of emotion one way or the other.

Rating: Do you want to live your life over twice? 2/5

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

981. Megadeth / Peace Sells... But Who's Buying? 1986. 5/5

My introduction to Megadeth’s sophomore album was inevitably through the magic of music video, and their appearance on music shows such as Rage on ABCTV late on Friday and Saturday nights. Both videos for “Peace Sells” and “Wake Up Dead” were excellent, and the songs even better. My problem living in Australia in 1986 was that it was almost impossible to find this album. It wasn’t until I finally discovered Utopia Records in Sydney that this became easier. As it was, it was a miracle when I finally found this on vinyl in a rack at Wilson’s Records in Wollongong in early 1988, and I finally was able to experience the album of PS…BWB rather than just the two songs I knew so well by that time.

Is there a finer opening song to an album than “Wake Up Dead”? It would be far too difficult to nail down an exact answer to that, but I have always felt that while there would be many songs that could be rated as an equal, certainly none is better than this. The needle would hit the vinyl, and then BANG, we are straight into the album, with Dave explaining to us about his sneak entry into his own house that evening. The difference between the opening thirty seconds of this song and everything that appeared on their debut opus is startling. That album was raw thrash just thrown out there, a wall of noise coming at you at a rush of speed. “Wake Up Dead” is heavy – fucking heavy – but refined in a way those early songs were not. The band is tight, the music is hammered together and the production is a hundred times better without stripping back any of the anger and fury that is pouring out of the speakers. This is a classic, and Dave being able to come up with songs about particular relationships was something that he can still draw on. “The Conjuring” is the follow up, and continues in a similar vein. However, though it is fast and heavy it doesn’t come across as frantic as the band’s earlier material. It is full of great riffs and fast and heavy material, but it is not in a frenzy. It is a real triumph as to how quickly the band matured in writing and playing, and about how better production can tighten songs that are pliable due to their strength.
“Peace Sells” is a classic in its simplicity, beautifully held together by Dave Ellefson’s wonderful bass line rumbling along underneath the simple by effective drum and guitar riff, while Mustaine stands on his soap box and pontificates on his vision of the world as he sees it. It also comes with the perfect lines for crowds to cry back at the band during concerts, an easy form of hero worship through the lyrics. The music video exacerbated this through its clever depiction of world events, and it spoke to the teenage generation at their hearts. Combine politics and anger in a song. It’s a winner. This then crashes straight into “Devil’s Island”, with Ellefson again flying along on bass guitar throughout while Mustaine and Chris Poland have a ball in their selected category. It’s amazing how fast a five minute song can go when it goes at this pace. Great stuff.
The opening to the second side of the album is “Good Mourning / Black Friday”. Good Mourning is just that, a slower mournful opening with Dave’s spoken feelings, before we suddenly fall downhill into Good Friday, which holds the torch for speed metal high and proud on this album. This flays along at what Dark Helmet in Spaceballs would call Ludicrous Speed. It is almost impossible for the listener to keep up with the song, and I can’t imagine how on earth Mustaine and Poland managed to pick their guitar strings at this speed. This is just awesomely fantastic, and even though it will rick your neck completely you can’t help but thrash along in time. Brilliant stuff. “Bad Omen” starts off in a similar vein to Good Mourning, but maintains a more attainable speed once the song starts, before careering over the edge as well in the final third of the song.
If there is an issue to be had, then it is with “I Ain’t Superstitious”, a cover version of the song originally recorded by blues artist Howlin’ Wolf. This version is (of course) a lot different from the original, but it is still noticeable that it doesn’t completely fit the vibe of the rest of this album. It is listenable, yes. And it must be said, even perfect albums can have a slight flaw in them (yes I know that is basically a contradiction, but I don’t care). Everything is forgiven by the closing track “My Last Words” which again starts with a slower riff before bursting into the heart of the song at speed, and Mustaine taking the bull by the horns and letting it charge. This is a terrific closing track, leaving you just as high and blazing as you are by the opening of the album. Just scintillating.

Apart from any reservations raised by “I Ain’t Superstitious”, it is practically impossible to find any weaknesses in this album. While Gar Samuelson’s drumming is sometimes criticised, his work here is solid and builds the basis for the other three musicians to weave their spell. Dave Ellefson is tremendous, and his bass guides throughout are a major component of what makes these songs so heavy in the bottom end. Chris Poland and Mustaine himself once again show a wonderful combination in their guitaring, and it is a disappointment that Poland was dismissed following this album (along with Samuelson) for excessive drug use as their partnership is just fantastic here. On top of all of this, Mustaine’s vocals continued to suit his songs, and with a deepening political and social bent in his lyrics the album ticks all of the boxes. Even as a stepping stone to further great albums to come, this still holds its own and stands the test of time some 30 years on.

Rating: “I want to watch the news….. this IS the news!”  5/5

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S05E10: The 7th Is Made Up of Phantoms

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S05E10: The 7th Is Made Up of Phantoms

Being that the Twilight Zone is a fifth dimension, there are no doubt time holes all around, just ready for unsuspecting people to fall through and find themselves in a different time. Such is the storyline here, with fluid movement between both the present and the past.

The idea works well. Three soldiers participating in a war game on the site of Custer’s Last Stand, on the anniversary of the Battle of Little Bighorn, suddenly find they can hear the sound of horses and Indian war cries. Though they can’t see anything, what they are hearing provokes a belief that there is some time distillation going on. Obviously on reporting it they are reprimanded. But when they head back the following day, they find more than they bargained for, and eventually the three of them rush of into battle.

It’s a nice touch at the end of the episode when their commanding officer finds all three names on the Custer Memorial board for having died in that battle 88 years before. His final comment of ‘it’s a pity they couldn’t take their tank with them’ makes for a chuckle at the conclusion.

Rating: Probably not the battle to choose to fight. 3.5/5

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S05E09: Probe 7, Over and Out

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S05E09: Probe 7, Over and Out

Another of Serling’s twist episodes, where rather than this being a journey into the Twilight Zone it is a story told with the reveal at the end that puts a brand new idea on an old story.

The first half of the episode deals with the stranded space traveller, crashed on an outer planet and his craft smashed beyond repair. Back home, war is about to break out, with the likelihood of complete annihilation very high. As a result, Adam Cook is instructed to explore his new world and make the most of it that he can. Believing he is alone, he is stunned to find another person there, who appears to come from another planet as they look similar but have different languages.

The outcome is the pleasing twist. Adam Cook meets Norda Eve. She gives the planet they have been stranded on the name of Earth. And they go off hand in hand to search for fruits called apples and a garden perhaps called Eden. Nicely played Rod Serling.

Rating: In a gadda da vida baby. 3.5/5