MUSIC FROM ANOTHER DIMENSION Aerosmith (Columbia) 4/5
I think even hardcore fans were afraid of this album. It’s been a decade- some of it embarrassing- since their last disc of original stuff. Produced by Jack Douglas (with Perry & Tyler), it’s really grown on me this week.
When you’ve been around as long as Aerosmith, it’s inevitable that anything new will be compared to your past. Is Dimension as good as the early stuff, or the Bruce Fairbairn produced comeback records of the 80’s and 90’s? Not really, although there are tantalizing elements of each throughout. Some great riffs from Whitford and Perry, bassist Tom Hamilton’s playing seems particularly inspired, Joey Kramer’s drums sound very 80’s while Steven Tyler seems a little more civilized.
After a few listens there are 4 or 5 great songs here that should make it into their live set. And pardon my language, but… what’s with all the fuckin’ ballads? 4 at my count, each more cloying than the one before. I’d maybe keep the duet with Carrie Underwood and ditch the rest, particularly We All Fall Down- what a slow moving turd that is!
I ponied up the extra $7 at HMV for the deluxe edition, which gives me the regular album (15 tracks) a disc with 3 bonus tracks, and a DVD with interviews and video. The interviews are standard “we think this is our best album” stuff, and the videos are live clips, proving what a great band ‘smith is on stage. 18 songs is a lot of friggin’ music but if the tunes are there, why not? Still, I would’ve chucked 2-3 of the ballads. Yech.
Final verdict- it’s a good Aerosmith record, but not a great one. And after seeing the cover art for this, maybe Steven Tyler should look in the mirror first before calling Kiss a ‘comic book band’ and dismissing their tunes.
TOP TRACKS: Street Jesus, Beautiful, Lover A Lot
KING ANIMAL Soundgarden (Universal) 4.5/5
16 years after Down On The Upside, it’s time to throw on a brand new Soundgarden album- a phrase I never thought would be uttered again. And a glorious return it is.
The band has been quite busy recent years, After a surprise club show in Seattle in 2010 they’ve done roadwork, released the career spanning Telephantasm which included the previously unreleased Black Rain and placed a song (Live To Rise) on The Avengers soundtrack. And of course, they spent time in the studio recording the new album.
I didn’t realize how much I missed Kim Thayil’s riffs until I threw this on a few hours ago. While there are moments, King Animal doesn’t feel as sludgy or depressing as stuff like Badmotorfinger. Performances are energetic all around, and it’s good to hear singer Chris Cornell back in this particular band environment, because frankly aside from his work with Audioslave, everything he’s touched since Soundgarden dissolved in the 90’s turned to suck. Drummer Matt Cameron has been the only one to have a decent gig to turn to, as timekeeper for Pearl Jam.
I used to find Soundgarden albums dark and depressing, and was never sure if it was them or me. The years off has done the band a world of good. I’m not sure what split them up in the first place, but the guys sound energized and inspired on the new album. Look out, world- Soundgarden is back, and King Animal is proof positive that they aren’t fucking around.
TOP TRACKS: Non-State Actor, Blood On The Valley Floor, Eyelid’s Mouth
SCREAMING FOR VENGEANCE Judas Priest (Columbia) 5/5
This is the special 30th anniversary edition, and I can’t think of a single album- particularly from the early 80’s- that deserves this treatment more.
Screaming For Vengeance is not just the album that put Judas Priest on the map in North America once and for all, it’s the record that opened the gates for all the metal that would follow. The album’s opener, The Hellion, would serve as Priest’s concert opener and rallying battle cry for many years to come. That was not the case when I saw them in Edmonton a year ago- but when they opened the encore set with it I felt that same pulse run up my spine as always as I screamed at the top of my lungs JUDAS FUCKIN’ PRIEST!
This 30th anniversary edition is two discs; the audio disc features several bonus tracks including 5 live versions of album cuts, plus Prisoner Of Your Eyes- just like the re-mastered edition that came out a few years ago. Disc 2 is a DVD of the band’s performance at the US Festival, California, 1983. Vengeance was a new album at the time, and they open their set with 3 tracks from the new record. NOBODY else would have the balls to do that!
Great music aside- this disc is not only Judas Priest’s commercial breakthrough, but their best selling record overall- the DVD is the best reason to buy Vengeance 30. A great performance by the band and also a reminder that, as good as they are in the studio, they are untouchable on stage. If such things don’t matter to you, you don’t need this- the re-master you already have is enough. History has already proven Screaming For Vengeance to be one of the mightiest metal albums of all time, and this chance to celebrate its 30th birthday feels damn good.
TOP TRACKS: CD: The Hellion/ Electric Eye, Bloodstone, Devil’s Child
DVD: Metal Gods, Heading Out To The Highway, The Green Manalishi
DOS! Green Day (Warner) 3/5
The second disc of a trilogy to be released in the space of a few months (#3, Tre! Is due December 11th ), bumped up because of the cancelled tour and Billie Joe Armstrong’s visit to Rehabland. Not bad- straight ahead angular pop/rock, with a hint of the 50’s, it sounds pretty good.
Three full length albums in a matter of months, seems like they want to out crazy Neil Young & Crazy Horse. I wonder about timing like that, but listening to the songs, it feels like Billie Joe, perhaps punk’s answer to Pete Townshend, was getting tired of making the grand statements like American Idiot and just wants to rock- and is that a grand statement in and of itself? God, I’m so confused.
In most ways, Dos! Is a typical Green Day album, but I like that AC/DC-like consistency… the songs are taut, urgent and melodic, several steps above what one would consider typical punk music, sort of like The Ramones meet Cheap Trick.
I’d like to say this music affects me deeply but it doesn’t, and it never has- but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it. The manic propulsion is a thing of beauty, the energy expended infectious, and when they do something out of left field like the female rap part in Nightlife, it just works. Will next month’s Tre be more of the same, or something out of left field? Guess we have to wait and see.
TOP TRACKS: Lazy Bones, Nightlife, Wow! That’s Loud
KOI NO YOKAN The Deftones (Warner) 5/5
With a rep for blending the moodiness of bands like The Cure with psychedelia and metal, The Deftones have just released one of the best hard rock albums of 2012.
As much as I love past albums like Around The Fur and White Pony, the new album feels more like a fully realized vision. “I think one of the things we were really conscious of was making sure the songs had real dynamics” says front man Chino Moreno. “I love Stephen (Carpenter)’s aggressive, chunky guitar riffs, but we always wanted there to be that kind of yin and yang in the songs- that push and pull between heaviness and beauty.”
You can find that balance often with a single song, like Tempest, which starts with a tense, pulsing guitar and Moreno’s hushed vocal before all hell breaks loose. Inspired in part by the band joking around about the Mayan prophecy of the world ending December 21st 2012 it is an epic and emotional song, and the first single too, giving you something of a glimpse at what can be expected from the rest of the album.
Koi No Yokan (a Japanese term for ‘love at first sight’) had me from the opening track Swerve City, a nasty rocker that grabs you by the throat and slams you against the wall. Overall the disc, produced by Nick Raskulinecz (Rush’s last 2 albums), is a dynamic adventure, full of the light and shade that Jimmy Page used to talk about with Zeppelin- it’s a beautiful thing.
TOP TRACKS: Swerve City, The Tempest, Rosemary