Tag Archives: 2006

Those the Brokes – THE MAGIC NUMBERS – 2006


The trouble with being contrarian is that it becomes tiresome for others. Even if you’re not willfully so, you risk resentment from the conforming majority. In music, contrarianism is usually reactionary and aggressive. Think punk as the antithesis to prog, or thrash as the antithesis to glam. But what about the Magic Numbers? When they came along, they were the polar opposite to gangsta-rap, most of which is a mine-is-bigger-than-yours debate with beats. The surprising thing was that they were contrarian by being cute: Four slightly overweight individuals with vintage instruments being unashamedly emotional. It was a potential revolution. But now, they have to live up to that milestone by being constantly innovative and not have the interest in them shift back to the cock-swinging mainstream. And Those The Brokes is their weapon of choice. Does it work?

Well, to begin with, its slightly less upbeat in tone, with slightly slower rhythms, which are nevertheless just as busy as on the first album. A round of drinks to the drummer, who manages to coax a genuinely ‘romantic’ sound from the drums. That means his sound has a simple, fairly uncompressed bass-drum and snare combination, with an emphasis on the watery shimmer of cymbals, helped along by the almost fatuous tambourine playing fourth member, who I shall henceforth refer to as ‘the appendix’.

I’m glad the band incorporated female vocals into these songs, and expanded on the number of duet songs, with good results on “Slow Down” and “Most of the Time”. There is even an attempt at a full female led song in “Take me or Leave Me”. It has nice lyrics, but is spoiled by overindulgence in string arrangements. Wanting some Bach-nookie is all well and good, but it spoils what I think should’ve been a stark and hollow auditorium of a song. I’m not sure whether the appendix was involved in these songs, but I’m sure I heard two female voices. Wikipedia and The Magic Numbers’ website offer no suggestions as to who it was.

A friend of mine was kind enough to tell me that the first album was the best. I told him that I’d give the Numbers a chance and judge the rest without any bias. Well? Unfortunately, on the first hearing of Those The Brokes, I can’t help but agree with him. I like the groove and the waltzy section on “Boy,”, and “Take a Chance” is a great song through and through, but the compelling song structures and memorable melodies aren’t really around. Throughout the album, I was struggling to catch a whiff of something to latch on to. Call it over-expectation after a great debut. Several songs started fetchingly, such as “Undecided”, but fell flat, with only the occasional resurfacing of the unexpected structures and mid-song hooks that made the first album such a refreshing listen.

The problem, I suspect, is that the band simply didn’t work hard enough to move the sound forward, perhaps in fear of alienating a very specific fanbase. Yes, its slightly more mature sounding, and slightly more Baroque in its arrangements and lyrics. But in the failing to gently coax the goalposts into new territory the way the first album did, the overall impression may be sufficiently summarized in the following phrase: Wimp Rock.

It might seem seem a little harsh to condemn the album this way, but only “Take a Chance” really made an impression on me. It is the only song I’d like to come back to. Those The Brokes shows some signs of development, but they are way too fetal to justify a whole new album. Contrarian it ain’t. Try again Romero Stodart and Co. This doesn’t sound right.

- El Bajista

More ALTERNATIVE/GRUNGE/INDIE reviews HERE

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Edounardo – MARCO RODI – 2006


Solo bass has been a quietly growing genre of music since Victor Wooten came along and stuck it to the establishment. Of course, at some level, it is inevitable. As long as people have existed, they have taken crazy ideas and tried to make them work. Many times, they fail miserably, like the Segway. But other ideas- like solo bass- are more sustainable, if not mainstream.

Marco Rodi is a solo bassist in Canada. He’s pretty damn good at it too. Check out his vids HERE and his website HERE. Edounardo (what does that mean?) happens to be his first solo bass album, recorded when he was pretty young. So how does it stand up?

It stands up well. This is clearly a musical album, intended to make people feel good, not have their jaws sweep the floor with technique. Often, the strummed parts are quite danceable too, like on the actually quite beautiful ‘Energetic Soustraction’. But that track is a bit of an exception. Most of the tracks are moody excursions into the tonal colors available on the electric bass, with a particular emphasis on the chiming harmonics made famous by Jaco Pastorius. Sample “Preparation” and “X-Ray Melody”, and the completely weird but wonderful passage at the end of “The Cruisade”.

The two big strengths that this guy has are enthusiasm and a desire to say **** you to all the detractors of the electric bass. I personally think, such bass players should be more mainstream, and be contributing this sort of thing to mainstream music i.e. rock and pop bands. Because – and you should all know this – the bass is capable of some pretty bloody gorgeous sounds, even without any electro-trickery involved. I’ve only been playing for a couple of years, and I can attest to that fact. As always, it only requires an individual with sufficient reserves of balls and shamelessness to put such a thing forward. In Canada, here’s our man.

This is clearly a musical album, intended to make people feel good, not have their jaws sweep the floor with technique

Faults? Firstly, any instrumental album done on only one instrument beginning to end (even Piano albums, methinks), are hard to swallow in one go. The reason is that while the person playing the instrument might have a lot to say, there are only a limited number of timbres that can be coaxed out of every instrument. Granted, the electric bass has more of a variety than most instruments (percussive, chiming, pinging, choral, melodic, and of course, bass), but still, it would be hard to hold the attention of non-bass n00bs. Secondly, the grooving is not perfect, in the sense of being studio ready. That said, he makes up for it in terms of a certain joie de vivre, if you will.

Yes. He is better than you. No, you can't do this.

That said, considering the young age at which Rodi recorded this (he is 24), it is a DAMN good effort. I played it to a friend of mine who is as interested in instrumental music as Paris Hilton is in quantum physics. This was able to hold his attention for quite a while. From the tribal percussion and moodiness on “The Boat”, to the little pings and ticks and things on “Old Bluesy”, Rodi has clearly left no stone unturned to ensure that the limitations of single instrument albums are overcome. This is inspiring stuff. I’m surely going to do something similar.

And you know what the best – THE best- thing about this? There is no wank-assery in sight. Not for miles. It’s proper songs with structure. Sure, it will not appeal to the majority to your Lady Gaga loving people, but who wants that?

What is the value of such an album? I think it’s important for young musicians who sit in a room and woodshed away to get out and jam as much as possible and be mad about what we are doing. It is critical. Marco is 24 and an engineering student. Wrap that around your head, Mr.-I’m-too-busy-to-practice.  Enjoy this, feel inspired and miserable at the same time. This sounds right.

- El Bajista

More BASS/SOLO BASS reviews HERE.

 


Blood Mountain-MASTODON-2006


If anybody says that they liked Mastodon the first time around then they are lying. If anybody says that they sat through all of their albums in one sitting and had no problem doing so, no itching to put on something a bit more low brow, then again, their noses should lengthen out a bit like Pinocchio’s. However, any one who makes an effort and still doesn’t get it after some time is simply no metal head.

Mastodon is one of the better metal ensembles I have heard that hail from this century. In fact, slowly, but surely, the more Blood Mountain sinks into me, the more I am tempted to think that this might be one of the best metal album of the decade, yes, it is THAT good. I have been listening to the album for 2 months now and am still not familiar with all the riff and tempo changes. Call it my inattentiveness or attribute it to the mastery of this band, but that’s what it is, and seldom does any album take that long to assimilate in my ear.

Their biggest achievement is the fact that they have genuinely built up a unique sound, and this is not AMG “unique” that I am talking about here (on AMG, every band is unique). They sound huge, grand without trying to, without the synths, mellotrons and female choir ala Therion etc. They are complex without trying to be, without the constant use of polyrhythms and mind bending time signatures ala Meshuggah, Textures etc.

If Leviathan is taken as the starting point for this band, then Blood Mountain is the next big step. That monster was all about rhythms, this one is all about the rhythm and the melodic lead breaks. The Southern rock influences return in full force on tracks like Crystal Skull which has an awesome Lynyrd-Skynyrd-y solo at the end, only sped up and hard rockitized. That track is so awesome, its beyond belief, what with the harmonies that they bring in through the rhythm and lead guitar. The vocals have changed too. I can actually understand the lyrics and the emphasis is on pitch and key rather than on being harsh and guttural. Better than Leviathan? Definitely.

My only beef with them would be that sometimes it seems that they deliberately want to put the listener off, for example take Bladecatcher, which has a solid intro, but then goes haywire with some weird sound effects, only for a brief moment, but it is off putting, the kind of stuff that makes the normal person say “that’s why I don’t listen to metal.”

To make a long story, short, most of the album consists of similar awesomeness, and to point that out I use, kids, say it……

Recommended Songs -: Crystal Skull, Sleeping Giant, Hunters of the Sky

-Baba T


Black Holes and Revelations – MUSE – 2006


So now, we come to the most sci-fi and political album of Muse. Odd combination, isn’t it? Sci-fi and political. Sci-fi mostly in sound. Political in lyrics. Anyway, this is Muse’s second latest album, and I can’t wait to hear it.

A great album.

Let me state at the outset that I don’t really give a damn about the lyrics. They are average, but occasionally are good like on “Bliss” (Origin of Symmetry), “Starlight” and “Knights of Cydonia”. But lyrics are not as much the point of this point as pure sound. Dream Theater are about their instrumentalists, Dylan is about the songs, RHCP are about the rhythms and feels, and Muse is about sound. Mainly. All consuming sound. Loudness is key here. As is distorted bass. And guitar. But on this album, distorted bass. Try “Starlight” and “Supermassive Black Hole”. Both fantastic songs anchored by the awesome bigness of Chris Wolstenholme’s sound. He can get technical at times, but he is more about….you guessed it…sound. One of the bassists of the decade, undoubtedly. Check this Osaka Jam out.

Did I mention that there is a big electronic element here? Yup, it’s all over the place, and much more than the much rockier Origin of Symmetry, and the much (supposedly) poppier Showbiz.Many a great band has fallen by the wayside attempting electronica, not in the least the Rolling Stones and U2. But you know what? Muse pull it off. And pull it off with a flourish. The touches are just right. Special props must go to drummer Dom Howard for really doing justice with his 16th note beats. He really knows how to serve the song. Look no further than the quite danceable “Map of the Problematique”. Also sample “Invincible” and “Soldier’s Poem”.

Muse is about sound. All consuming sound.

 

Oh, and don’t forget “City of Delusion”. It might very well be Muse’s “Kashmir”, but the highlight- like many earlier Muse classics like “Hysteria” and “Hyper Music”- is the bassline. Watch out for the rolling-churning soup that is Chris Wolstenholme’s bassline. And “Knights of Cydonia”? It’s a great song, but its live performances are some of the most epic live performances by any band. Ever. Try this with headphones.

Matthew Bellamy’s singing is also much improved, with the one big difference being that he isn’t dying on every song. That was my one big criticism of Muse, and that’s gone as well. Criticisms of the album? Well, it’s longish, and the ballads don’t really work, though they ­are musically interesting to a n00b such as myself.

This is clearly a band at the height of their powers, and I can’t wait to review The Resistance, of which I’ve heard (and loved) a few songs. This sounds right.

- El Bajista

More MUSE reviews HERE.

More ALTERNATIVE/GRUNGE/INDIE reviews HERE.

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