Monthly Archives: February 2011

Kid A-RADIOHEAD-2000


Cold and Desolate are the words.

After the grand success of OK Computer, Radiohead were touted as the “saviors” of rock music, as the band that had taken up the baton from Floyd and the Beatles into the next century for making intelligent rock music and breaking MTV pop trends. Yeah, right. Why do the media take every good, pure thing and mess it up? Radiohead is a good, intelligent band with a penchant in 1997 for writing good guitar rock songs, but they were not saviors because, firstly rock music does not need to be “saved”, secondly, only a generation fed on a steady diet of MTV and VH1 would be overly impressed with OK Computer, which, mind you, is a good album, a nice album, but it is not a legendary album, is not a paradigm changing piece of music. Alternative rock saw lots of more awesome albums in the 90’s, but hey, the mainstream couldn’t be bothered to see beyond Paranoid Android. Fuck you, mainstream. In any case, you should know that Kid A inaugurated the second period in the musical evolution of Radiohead.

However, if Kid A had got the same praise which got handed down to its predecessor, I would have agreed, to most of it anyway. That it got a mixed reaction shows how stupid people can be, and I am including professional music writers in on this one. Kid A saw Radiohead abandoning rock music’s totally understandable obsession with guitar riffs and licks and moving towards layers, textures and beats. This is called post-rock for a reason. No, it is not only electronic trance music. Yes, it incorporates elements of electronica heavily, as well as ambient music (think Brian Eno), jazz, etc, not to mention elements of soundtrack music from 50’s British pictures, which sound (purposely) dated.

But that is not the reason that I dote on this album so much. It is because Radiohead perfected the art of conveying ideas, mood, concepts, hell, images, through sound alone. Take the title track for a second here. Notice the underlying piano motif which puts me in the mind of a children’s juke box. Layered on top of the piano are the vocals(Thom Yorke), distorted beyond recognition, sounding like a child and an adult at the same time. I won’t mention my interpretation of the music, because I fully understand that that is not the purpose. The purpose is not to convey a certain ideology or thought process. The purpose is to ensure that everybody gets to take away some sort of interpretation or imagery after listening to this. Kid A isn’t a path to anywhere; it’s an open field, vast and unrestricted.

Recommended Tracks – All of ‘em.

-Baba T


Blood – OFFICE OF STRATEGIC INFLUENCE – 2009


Ah, Kevin Moore. He was a major part of what is widely reknowned as the best era of Dream Theater, the early era. He could play fast, but there was a compositional aspect to his playing that the other two keyboard players of DT just cannot match. Unfortunately, his chosen direction was away from Dream Theater’s, and since then DT have been getting more and more metal, and less prog. Moore bought balance.

But lets not cry over spilt milk. He has moved on and made some excellent, if very somber music. Office of Strategic Influence (OSI) is probably his most commercial project to date, with guitarist Jim Matheos providing guitar, and a revolving door of drummers and bass players handling the rest.

So how does this, OSI’s latest album from 2009, get on? In short, it’s like Porcupine Tree, but darker. Moore will never be as technically gifted as Dream Theater, but I like this music a lot more. There is a lot of soul here, and lots of atmosphere. Kevin Moore’s approach to lyrics is refreshing. Simple, but with many layers and importantly without any overusing of words like love or baby or heart around. Good. And all this lyrical goodness is delivered is the characterful and relaxed voice of Kevin Moore. Earlier, I’ve talked about a category of singers who make you want to listen to their lyrics just by the sound of their voices. Kevin Moore is one of those singers.  Sample “Terminal”, “Radiologue” and “False Start”.

The big connecting thread is that all the songs are somber, moody and throaty. Katy Perry this aint. There are fairly long, and moody instrumental sections knitted together with floaty keyboards and minimal drum grooves. The epitome of this is “Terminal”. All the guitar solos serve the song rather than the soloist, and the vocal melodies are always original and fresh. This is good music. When the band does get to a seriously heavy song, it’s still great, thanks to Matheos. The best example is “False Start”, which even has a Tool like 45/343 type interlude groove. But even then, there is something about the vocal treatment and keyboards in the background that makes it more atmospheric than most modern metal.

The general approach to the songs is somehow much more ‘compositional’ than most rock-electronica efforts. “We Come Undone” is almost like some of the slower work of my favourite composer of all time, A.R.Rahman. The drums are electronic, the bass is minimalistic, treacly textural keyboards are everywhere and there is some interesting use of voice samples. 

Blood tends to become a little too dark and heavy towards the end, so that makes this album one that is best heard in parts rather than in a sitting. Leave that to the reviewers. But I can guarantee that the very strong songs and Kevin Moore’s characterful voice will have you keep coming back. There are a couple of unconvincing cuts towards the end, such as “Be the Hero” and “Microburst Alert”, which sound a bit like the first few songs, but just don’t have the staying power that they have. Thankfully, the final song on the album, “Blood” recoups lost ground with solid grooves, melodies and is a good representation of this album.

So the bottom line is this. This is good music if you want to calm down and really enjoy some good tunes. Kevin Moore is not realy as famous as his previous band mates, but this is very good, sometimes better, music  than Dream Theater. This sounds right.

- El Bajista

More PROGRESSIVE/ART/PSYCHEDELIC reviews HERE.


The London Howlin’ Wolf Sessions – HOWLIN’ WOLF – 1971


This record was suggested to me by a friend who swore me to

quote

“start with wang dang

then red rooster

then

smoke stack lightenin.”

Unquote.

My first impression was one of disappointment as it is a lot more ‘arranged’ than I expected. I had hoped and wanted guy with guitar singing his balls out. Instead I got electric bass/guitar (eergh), drums, a horn section, piano and harmonica and what not.

No matter. My approach to this album was to listen to it as a Howlin’ Wolf album and without any extraneous Eric Clapton-ism or Bill Wyman-ism. Just a guy with a guitar. And for me, that’s the only way this album delivers. And delivers big. I know he was an electric blues pioneer, but am I the only one who thinks he would have been much more powerful with minimal accompaniment, and not a full band?

Anyway, I have always wondered what Lemmy Kilmister might have taken his inspiration from. I now know. Wolf is raw, in your face and with an extremely smoky and heavy voice. I haven’t bothered to check out his Wiki page, but I’m pretty sure he smoked like a private on sentry duty. And somehow, I can picture him gesticulating with his head, like a proto-Stevie Wonder, cigarette-in-hand, bottle of cheap booze close by and thoughts of sex never too far away, while in the studio recording this. In sepia. Innit?

Am I the only one who thinks he would have been much more powerful with minimal accompaniment?

“Rockin’ Daddy”, which quickly leaves us in no doubt about the general tone of the lyrics, is one of the cuts in which he delivers big. That said, I do prefer the slower songs, with a heavier bassy stomp, to match his lower pitched growl. “Sitting at the Top of the World” works amazingly for me. Another slowish track which I’m particularly fond of is “Built for Comfort”, where he seems to get defensively playful about the fact that he is….well…fat. ‘I’m built for comfort; I ain’t built for speed’. It also seems to be a shorter song than the rest, and that works well for me by cutting through the repetitive structure of the blues. I personally find the three chord vamps and insistent structure a little tedious.

My favourite tracks have to be “Who’s been Talkin’”, with its head-bobbing triplet rhythms with Wolf’s I’ve-been-inhaling-coal-dust-since-I-was-three voice. It works beautifully. My other favourite track is the subtly named “Wang Dang Doodle”, with its insistent guitar riff, and what’s this? Multi tracked vocals? Falsetto? I likes.

Just a note while signing off. I looked into some of Howlin’ Wolf’s classic tracks without the all star white-boy backing cast of Clapton with Wyman and Watts from the Rolling Stones. My opinion, listen to Wolf on his solo ultra low-fi recordings. He shines most without all the (then) new fangled production techniques. Why? Because then the whole band sounds like its gargling glass while playing.  And I like that.

So here is my verdict. This is a good album because of Wolf’s voice and because the backing musicians are highly competent. For me though, I’d rather just have Howlin’ Wolf’s voice. This sounds right.

- El Bajista

More BLUES/BLUES ROCK reviews HERE.

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