Out of Time – R.E.M – 1991

This album is the most straight-forward, poppy, simplistic and emphatic album that R.E.M ever wrote – it is delightful. I am particularly attached to it, this being the first R.E.M album I ever heard, and among the first 50 albums I ever heard. There goes objectivity – or not – such a thing as objectivity in music doesn’t exist whatever Pitchfork or Rolling Stones might try to tell you- yes, my feelings are colored by my past association but what use is music if not to color your feelings.

As I noted, I am comfortable with this album – its like my bed in my old room – I know every twist and turn – every nook and cranny – I’ve had time to grow up with these songs in my head. I could’ve regaled you with my multiple interpretations of “Losing My Religion” but unfortunately have forgotten all of them but I still love the video and the song – Michael Stipe is in fine form as usual, he sounds as vulnerable and human as ever. R.E.M._-_Out_of_Time

They have used the tracklisting to make sure that we move through multiple moods and not stay in one spot too long – from happy, frolicking rhythms (Radio Song/Shiny Happy People) to meditative introspection (Losing My Religion/Half a World Away) to whimsically sad and angsty (Low/Country Feedback) to a peaceful and quiet slumber (Near Wild Heaven/Endgame/Me in Honey)

Apart from the interminably long Low most of the songs are good, and at the time this album ushered in a new era for R.E.M – 60’s pop-rock era updated for the 90’s. An album for contented, happy people – or for people who want to feel that way – this one has been my stalwart companion through the years.

Recommended Tracks – Losing My Religion, Half a World Away (covered later by Oasis), Country Feedback, Near Wild Heaven.

-Baba T

Hail to the Thief-RADIOHEAD-2003

Are you such a dreamer?
To put the world to rights?

I’ll stay home forever
Where two & two always
makes up five

There is nothing you can do to ward off the inevitable doom and facing that reality makes you want to cover up, buy a gun and sitRadiohead_-_Hail_to_the_Thief_-_album_cover (1) behind the door and watch the world burn on TV. Does it make you mad, this self destruction of the human race? Well you can be cynical or shout your heart out, or both, which is what Radiohead do. “2+2 = 5″ opens the best album that Radiohead has ever recorded bar Kid A, maybe. They bring the guitars back to drive the songs forward, with greater force, and use the electronica elements displayed on Amnesiac and Kid A to support them, to add that quirkiness that is this unique freak of a band. It is not that they play notes that you have never heard, for example “Sit Down. Stand Up” uses a kick ass piano motif to propel the intro consisting of 4-5 notes, but it is the arrangement, atmosphere and the crushing weight of reality that make me listen to this album on repeat.

Oh, and look, there is the contemplative ballad which might just be the follow up to “High and Dry” from The Bends, the unsettling, but oh so pretty “Sail to the Moon”. Is ballad, the wrong word? Maybe not for a band with its roots as firmly planted in romanticism as Radiohead (which doesn’t only mean “love” as popularly understood, twerps). Happily on this album they use traditional song writing techniques to just give us one solid song after song, and while this lacks the cohesive atmosphere of Kid A or OK Computer, it maintains that unity of mood and pace, not to mention that the melodies and vocals of Thom Yorke are at their brilliant best. Are these songs about larger concepts like the whole human race or personal songs of grief, pain and loss? The best thing is, they are both and simultaneously are musically the peak of Radiohead. What a helluva of a rock’n’roll album. It is like they captured heartbreak, made it catchy and with a twisted smile said, “There, there.”

there’s always a siren
singing you to shipwreck.
steer away from these rocks,  we’d be a walking disaster.

-Baba T

In Utero-NIRVANA-1993

This album sometimes gets lost in the shuffle, and it doesn’t deserve to be. It is very much in the style of earlier works, however people get involved in trying to assign meaning to the lyrics. There has been endless discussion about Cobain, his motivations, emotions, his distance from the underground, how he wanted to go back to the “roots”, his alienation from fame, Courtney “The Bitch” Love yadda yadda yadda…….

As for me, after all these years, I am in a position to view the pop culture waves from a distance, and I know the tides, its ebbs and the fallout. Nirvana was adapted by all “players” for their own purposes, and In Utero encapsulates that trend perfectly – the music is tired – so tired and frustrated – it is the feeling you get when you realize that you are but tiny fish in the pond caught in currents beyond your ken and control and nothing you say or do will changeIn_Utero_(Nirvana)_album_cover anything. The corruption runs deep, deeper than imagined, and nothing is pure, no driven snow. The hippies want recognition – the mindless corporation wants money – and the rest-well, who’s left?

If Bleach was juvenile white hot fury – if Nevermind was a confident, hopeful attack – In Utero is the dawning realization there is only so much that you can do after all. Somebody, somewhere, will exploit you somehow, you can get used to it or stick a gun to your head. Throughout In Utero runs the theme of parasitic behavior and hidden agendas – by listeners, corporations, lovers and friends. A man gets driven to suicide when he goes back home and knows that nobody has his back – not his wife, not his friends, and definitely not his real estate investment handler-and when you have perceived value it will be used, and used and you will be run dry and then throw away like a used glove.

The sonic palette of In Utero is raw static tinged with touches of gentle moonlight, good enough to make your head drop in your hands and listen to the album the whole way through – somehow this has become my go-to album when I want my dose of Nirvana. You could call this late period ironic post hardcore punk, or better yet, lets not attach any labels because we all know that’s a mug’s game, eh?

Some songs are just abrasive  for the sake of being abrasive and would not make sense out of the context of the album – however this album remains a must hear and neat addition to the short lived grunge period in rock music. The Ramones and the Misfits will hardly ever understand the ramifications of their 2 minute 2 chord expositions, will they now?

-Baba T

From the Stands – RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS (20/10/2012) – Houston, TX

“Road-hardened chops” is a term often used by cynical hacks to describe a really tight and professional show by a band and/or an artist. Yet, I can’t help but bring that term up when I saw the Red Hot Chili Peppers on October the 20th. From the efficient way in which the audience was whisked in, to the aptly placed merch stand to the extremely quick and tight set up for the Peppers after the opening band finished, it was a sight to behold. 

The opening band was something called Thundercat, a band that had two bass players, only playing lead and one rhythm. All in all, a very impressive set of jazzy numbers and virtuosic soloing. There was only one problem: the sound. The Toyota Center is basically a basketball arena, and it seems its architecture is optimized for that and not for concerts. As a result, the drums were too loud (maybe because I was close to the stage) and the bass was vague and boomy. Still, the vocals were pretty audible, as was the keyboard.

When the Peppers started, they started with a bit of a misstep. Flea – resplendent in Native American print pajamas – had a slightly detuned bass. And any musician will tell you, that there is nothing worse than a slightly detuned bass. The unfortunate song to have this fate was Monarchy of Roses off their latest album, “I’m with You”. However, tight and professional as always, the band powered through the song with gusto.

A few things became clear within the first 10 minutes of the 45 minute set. The first thing is the improvisation that’s always been a feature of the band: its clearly pretty spontaneous, though they set aside certain ‘segments’ for some tight riffing. This is made clear with all the bass solos here and there and a sharp little ditty of a Klinghoffer – Smith guitar-drum duet.

The second thing is that Flea is clearly the star of the show. Despite some technical difficulties initially and a less than optimal sound throughout the show, he danced, headbanged and soloed his way through the show with great energy and originality. You could see the showman come out, as he was the only member of the band to play to all parts of the stadium, while simultaneously interacting with his band members.

The setlist itself was not a surprising one, as it consisted mostly of the Peppers’ very reliable hit catalogue from the past 20 odd years, aside from the odd choice or two. I found myself clearly at odds with the rest of the crowd, as many of the songs that the crowd didn’t find that hot happened to be my favorites for that night. Cue a devastatingly funky rendition of “I Like Dirt”, which was one of the revelations of the night. Klinghoffer – who was seated because of a broken foot – managed a sweet solo. However, his effects laden guitar rig had some technical problems and at one time he had to change his guitar mid song. Otherwise, the songs were a reliable balance between Californication, By the Way, I’m with You and BloodSugar songs.

All in all, a good, tight and professional set. Some of the moves were familiar from other live performances, but the Peppers reminded everyone why they belong firmly in the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame. This sounds right.

- El Bajista


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