Tag Archives: Singles

Mid-August 2016 New Song Round-Up

As we slowly exit Summer and near the holiday (silly) season, a band’s thoughts turn to new albums. What better way to prep the world by dropping a single on the unexpecting masses? After radio died but before we got music streaming services it wasn’t always super-easy for me to find these freshly released tracks. But now, every Friday Spotify curates them all for me! I’m sure no payola is involved…

Anyway, I never know what to do about these sort of things when it comes to the blog. I mean, I can’t possibly write 500 words on this new Green Day single. Luckily, I can just shamelessly copy another (some might even argue better) blogger’s format and apply them to this loose collection of songs.

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The Defending Axl Rose Mid-August 2016 New Song Round-Up

“Bang Bang” by Green Day: As soon as I hit play and heard the faux news broadcast, I knew we were in trouble. The intro reeks of trying too hard, and as we all know trying is pretty much the least punk thing one can do. That said, once the song starts “Bang Bang” isn’t a complete disaster. But all the talk of “World War 0” and “celebrity models” feels like the sort of empty criticism an 8th-grader would make about the current crop of senseless shootings. Somebody wake me up when September ends.

 

“City Lights” by The White Stripes: Oh, what a happy boy I was when I saw that there was a brand new White Stripes song on Spotify! Then I saw that it was “Previously Unreleased.” Well, no bother…even if Jack and Meg didn’t get back together at least I would get to hear a new song. Then I hit play and the soft, acoustic guitar ballad and I knew that I wasn’t going to get a new White Stripes song. This is a new Jack White solo track. Sure, maybe Meg is politely shaking maracas or whatever in the background, but this is about as far from an “Icky Thump” or “Seven Nation Army” as one can get. And while variety is the spice of life, I was really hoping for something a bit more explosive. “City Lights” isn’t terrible, it’s a great (albeit sleepy) track from Jack White.

 

“Put Your Hands Up” by The Struts: I’ve been hearing a lot of really good things about The Struts. There’s been many comparisons between them and The Darkness, one of my favorite bands. So when I saw that they had a new single I didn’t hesitate. “Put Your Hands Up” is a good rock song that could have been great with a slightly catchier chorus (though they do get points for rhyming “vibration” and “medication”). Still, the band has plenty of energy (and cowbell) to convince me that I need to give them a serious listen.

 

“Punks In A Disco Bar” by Beach Slang: Ten seconds in and I’m hooked. I’m so in the bag for this band, that I guess nobody should be surprised that I dig this song. But boy, do I dig this song. That vicious, angular guitar riff is fantastic. Beach Slang pack so much intensity into “Punks In A Disco Bar” that the track’s sub-three minute runtime doesn’t even feel too short. I really hope that this song isn’t some kind of leftover from last year’s record and that there’s a new one on the horizon. I missed seeing these guys back in April when my son was born, I really want them to hop on the touring circuit again so I can see them. Brilliant 10/10.

 

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“Grass” by XTC

“It would shock you, too/the things we used to do on grass…”

Though Andy Partridge is the lead-mad genius of British New Wave rocker XTC, my all-time favorite song by the band was written and sung by Colin Moulding.  The lighthearted, easygoing bassist was very much the McCartney in XTC.  His songs are guided more by the heart than the more cerebral, neurotic songs written by Partridge.  Of the two, Moulding is very much the one who comes across as an average bloke, the sort of guy you could have a beer with down at the pub.  That’s not to say Moulding was incapable to complex, witty, psychedelic numbers like Partridge.

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Moulding’s song “Grass” off the band’s 1986 album SKYLARKING is my favorite XTC song for a couple of reasons. For one, its surreal, psychedelic sweep is beyond splendid. The song opens with a sweeping string arrangement and chirping bird sounds (the album does anyway, the single version doesn’t have the sound effects). Lyrically, the song is both about having sex in a field and having sex while under the influence of marijuana.  The song is loaded with delightful double-entrees that are cute and not skeevy like I’m making it sound.  While it’s by no means high poetry, I’ve always enjoyed the cheeky, very British, wordplay of “Grass.”

“Grass” was written and recorded in the late 1980’s, at a time when it was pretty uncool to like The Beatles. Sure, there were bands like Tears For Fears mining The Beatles pop territory, but it was done in a most un-Beatle way. “Grass” was a desperate stab at a much-needed American hit single.  The song got XTC a hit in the States, but not in the way the band predicted: DJ’s ignored “Grass” and made the song’s b-side “Dear God” a surprise hit instead.  Produced by super-producer Todd Rundgren, the song never got it’s due in my opinion.  I think “Dear God” is a very good song, but by no means as representative of XTC and what the band stood for as “Grass.”

A great way to start Spring, enjoy “Grass”:

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DEFENDING AXL ROSE: Part 2 “Shackler’s Revenge”

Welcome to part two of a fourteen part series in which I go track-by-track through CHINESE DEMOCRACY. It’s been over two years since I did the first installment on the first song…but I’m back defending Axl Rose!

I’d heard several songs off CHINESE DEMOCRACY prior to the album’s official November 2008 release, but “Shackler’s Revenge” was the first officially-Axl-sanctioned track I heard. The song was previewed in the Harmonix rhythm game Rock Band 2, which came out a month before CHINESE DEMOCRACY was released. I remember playing the game for hours the day it came out trying to unlock the song. When I finally got a chance to play “Shackler’s Revenge” I was pretty disappointed. Unlike the rough leaked tracks I’d heard, “Shackler’s Revenge” had a gritty industrial feel. I was also taken aback by the song’s production, which was busier than most hard rock songs. This negative reaction was repeated when I bought the album a month later.

For the record: not my score, not my Xbox ID, and not screen cap.

For the record: not my score, not my Xbox ID, and not screen cap.

Five years and many listens later, I like “Shackler’s Revenge” much more than I did when I first heard it in Rock Band. That said, this track is probably the most over-stuffed/produced track on the album. Everything about “Shackler’s Revenge” is big. The song has the most credited writers of any song on the album (five in case you were wondering). The song has multiple guitar solos and multiple guitarists. And despite this largeness, the song is the second shortest track on the record, clocking in at three and a half-minutes in length.

The track is an epic, aggressive romp through burning fields of an apocalyptic hard rock landscape. The song might not have struck me as very Guns N’ Roses-like the first time I heard it, but “Shackler’s Revenge” actually has all the main ingredients of a great GNR song. The song features lead and backing vocals from Axl, where are layered on multiple tracks creating a creepy Axl-choir. “Shackler’s Revenge” is angry and defiant with an absolute killer chorus that seems to wag a finger at all of Axl’s doubters.

GNR’s songs are also known for their guitar and “Shackler’s Revenge” does not disappoint on this end. The song features interesting guitar work from the avant-garde guitarist Buckethead and the band’s other guitarist Bumblefoot. I’m not 100% sure which one of these guitarists did the solos, but they’re fantastically explosive. I also really like the dying Galaga machine-like quality of the guitar tone.

The song’s dark, apocalyptic nature recalls the band’s previous “Oh My God.” That track, which came out on the END OF DAYS soundtrack in 1999, almost seems like a proto-“Shackler’s Revenge.” Axl has publically stated that “Oh My God” was released unfinished due to time constraints relating to the release of the film End of Days. A comparison of the two tracks is a fascinating: both have an aggressive, industrial metal feel but whereas “Oh My God” seems to be an endless gushing rant, “Shackler’s Revenge” has a methodical, demonic groove. The more refined “Shackler’s Revenge” is a testament to Axl’s tireless perfectionism. I’m not a big fan of sub-genre that the song mines, but the song has grown on me over the years. That said, releasing “Shackler’s Revenge” as the album’s first single was probably a mistake. From a business perspective, it makes sense to release the shorter more dynamic track but for my money the album’s third track “Better” would have made a better single (pun intended.

But I’ll write more about that when in the next installment of my track-by-track review of CHINESE DEMOCRACY.

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Kaiser Chiefs Carry On With “Misery Company”

Brit-rockers The Kaiser Chiefs have released a brand new song off their upcoming album EDUCATION, EDUCATION, EDUCATION & WAR.  The album, which will be the bands fifth, marks the first since drummer/lead-songwriter Nick Hodgson quit the band in 2012.  The new song, titled “Misery Company,” is pretty good and raises hopes that the band will pull themselves out of their death-spiral-of-mediocrity.

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I loved the first two Kaiser Chief albums and had high hopes for the boys from Leeds. The band combined the best parts of 90’s Brit-pop with punk and a danceable beat.  But public and critical reaction to the band’s second album YOURS TRULY, ANGRY MOB was the beginning of a decline for the band. Their third album, OFF WITH THEIR HEADS was the last one I sought out and listened to.  I haven’t been able to get the courage up to listen to their fourth album, THE FUTURE IS MEDIEVAL.  The law of diminishing returns now haunts the band.

“Misery Company” is pretty good.  It has the hallmarks of classic Kaiser Chiefs with it’s chugging beat and droning guitars.  The keyboards and maniacal laughing are nice touches, too.  I do wish the song had more memorable/catchy lyrics and was a little more aggressive.  The song’s good, but feels more like a second or third string single. Had the band been on a tremendous roll, I’d say they were just holding back the good stuff–but at this point I think “Misery Company” probably is the good stuff.

I guess it’s true what they once said: Everything is average nowadays.

EDUCATION, EDUCATION, EDUCATION & WAR comes out on March 31, 2014.

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“Vincent Van Gough” by Resistor

It’s not often, but sometimes a song hits you at the exact right moment in your life.  As a fat, midwestern schlub writing music reviews on his Axl Rose-themed blog, Resistor’s “Vincent Van Gough” struck a nerve.  I guess what I’m trying to say is: please take this review with a grain of (rock) salt, because this song got my number in a big, big way.

"Is it any wonder I reject you first?"

“Fame: Is it any wonder I reject you first?”

Resistor is synthpop band languishing in obscurity that is poised to release their first album…soon-ish.  The album’s single/central thesis is “Vincent Van Gough.”  The song is a tongue-in-cheek look at fame starvation in the Internet age.  The song is an anthem for all those lonely Brony’s trying, and failing, to achieve fame online: like I said, it hit close to home for me.

Synthesizers have always fascinated me, so Resistor’s synth-chic rubbed me the right way.  Lyrically the song has a very Ray Davies cheery-but-dark sensibility that plays well against the bouncy, upbeat synth accompaniment.  The song gleefully name-checks a bunch of really talent people who didn’t achieve fame until after their death (hence the song’s title).  I particularly loved the chorus, “I always heard, if you build it they’ll come, but if that doesn’t work, you can always try dying young.” Every time I hear those lines I smile but also involuntarily wince. Fame’s a bitch.

Go take a listen to “Vincent Van Gough” over at Resistor’s SoundCloud page.

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