Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Neighborhoods - Blink-182 (Review)

I am not a huge Blink-182 fan in the first place, but I always enjoyed a good selection of their music. Although the dick and fart jokes can get a little old, their music has always been fun. That changed on the previous album, Self titled. That album took more of an emo, more serious approach to their music. After that album, they went on a hiatus, and each did side projects. Tom Delonge did Angels and Airwaves, and Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker did +44. Neighborhoods sounds like it could be another Angels and Airwaves album. Considering this is Blink-182's come back album, everyone is habitually going to love it, But for me, it is all of the little things added to this album that drag it down. And they drag it down a tad to far to enjoy the record.

It opens with "Ghost on the Dance Floor".  This a reasonable choice for the opener, besides one embarrasing flaw. The verse melody is identical to the melody of Blink side project, Boxcar Racer's "There is". I think someone probably should've reminded Tom that he is already written this song a few years back, but anyways. It is nothing more or less than a catchy pop song. I guess it is what you would expect from them. Another big thing about this song that I hate (which is one of my biggest problems throughout the whole album) is all the spacey sci-fi sounds in the backround.

Next is "Natives". At first this song sounds just like any other Blink-182 track. The guitar riff is pretty cool. But then when the song actually kicks in, those background effects come in and screw everything up. The chorus gets rid of them though, and carries on a more traditional blink-sounding production. The chorus is one of the strongpoints on the album, but the verses drag it down to much to listen to often.

"Up All Night" was the first single to be released from the album. It is probably the worst track on the standard album. The spacey noises are most noticable in this song. The melody is totally blink-esqu, but it is so over powered by shitty production methods and sci-fi sounds. When this single was released, although hearing Mark and Tom dueting was refreshing, I was still dissapointed. I know for a fact that there is better choices for singles on this record. When people say, "you are obviously wrong because it is number one on the charts" and all that, Yea. Obviously. It is Blink-182's first track in five years. No matter what the quality of the song is, it will be number one. I promise you this.

"After Midnight" is the second single released, I believe. This is a better choice than "Up All Night" in my opinion. Although this continues throughout the whole album, the autotune on Tom's voice is most relevant here. It is embarrasingly hidden. The vocal effects on this song are way to noticable in this song. That is pretty much all I can notice when I hear this song.

After that comes "Heart's All Gone". All of those effects and noises are pretty much gone in this song. This is definitly the song that is most similar to their older albums. It is probably the fastest song on the album, and it is just a straigh-forward pop/punk song. That is exactly what I want from a band like Blink. I don't want any pretentious bullshit like "Snake Charmer" or Angels and Airwaves. The lyrics are handled pretty well in this song also.

"Wishing Well" is another highlight. The drum fills before each pre-chorus is tremendously awful, but that doesn't drag it down too far. This is another straight-forward three minute pop song. This is exactly what I hoped the whole album would sound like (besides that shit excuse for a drum fill). Although those noises are still here, the youthful poppy-ness of this song over powers the flaws in this song.

"Kaleidoscope" is easily the least memorable song on the album. Every time the song ends, I forget how it went (I am not exaggerating). That is not saying it is the worst on the album though, I am just saying that it has nothing worth remembering. Tom's autotune is also painful in this song. It may be as noticible as "After Midnight". The structure to this song also seems like it has no rhyme or reason. I really don't understand it yet.

Next is "This Is Home". This is another song that would sound like Take Off Your Pants and Jacket if it weren't for the synth. The melodies and guitar riffs are extremely similar to their older music. The lead guitar riff in the intro and verses reminds me a lot of their other music. In some places in the song, there is some weird things going on with Tom's voice. I'm not sure if it is an editing problem or it is intentional. If it is intentional, than that is a dumb move by them. Either way, this song is okay.

"MH 4.18.2011" is an okay track. It seems extremely misplaced though. It does not fit on this album what so ever. It takes more of a rock vibe, rather than a pop vibe like the rest of the album. Regardless, it is a pretty cool song. It is pretty distracting though, how this breaks the flow of this album. This really doesn't even seem like a Blink-182 track, let alone a Neighborhoods track.

The closure is "Love Is Dangerous". This, again, is saturated with awful production. The synths are present throughout the whole song. The vocals are pretty bad in this song too. I really hate it how Tom over pronounces certain random syllables in words. Every time he says "dangerous", he over pronounces the last syllable. Not the worst song on the album, but certainly not the best.

Maybe if the album wasn't compressed to all hell, and maybe if the album had more to offer than just synthy sci-fi noises, than I would like it. The songs themselves are not bad, just how they went about handeling them is terrible. Also, maybe if "Even If She Falls" was included on the album I would like it. It is the best song by far and it is left for the deluxe version. The autotune is pretty embarrasing on this album. And Travis's drumming isn't really anything special on the album either. Regardless of quality, people will over listen to this song for the next year just because it is Blink's comeback album, but in all honesty....It isn't good.

Highlights : Heart's All Gone, This is Home, (Even If She Falls)

Music : 4 (Only a few songs actually sound like the band)
Lyrics : 5 (Blink is not a "lyrics band" anyways)
Artwork : 1 (That front cover is a joke)

Overall : 3.5

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Thursday, September 1, 2011

It's Great To Be Alive - Fake Problems (Review)

Earlier this summer, I wrote a review of their latest album, Real Ghosts Caught On Tape. I refered to their creativity and how expiremental they are. Out of all their albums, this contains the most of that. Every song sounds nothing like the last one. That is what I want. That is exactly why Real Ghosts Caught On Tape was a tad dissapointing. If I were to put a label on this album, I think I would call it expiremental folk-punk. It just has so many different elements in it, it is hard to call it anything but fantastic. It is easily my favorite Fake Problems album to date.

The first song is a nice little song called "1234". It is short, sweet, and overall a very nice listen. For a minute long song, it manages to get quite epic at many times. To show everyone that they are not just an average folk-punk band anymore, they decided to add a whole brass section to the first track. Very cool. This song leads straight into the next flawlessly.

"Dream Team" was released as a single and had a video made for it. Good choice making this a single out of any of the rest of these songs. It is the most radio-friendly and catchy song on the album. It is the easiest to digest. To put it in more simple terms, It is the least weird on the album. It is still good, but not as unique as the rest of the album. The video consists of them playing at a house party, and the fun the band is having really reflects on the song.

After that comes "You're a Serpent, You're a She-Snake". This song really contains the expiremental aspect I was talking about. The fuzzy bass is charmingly overwealming, and the synth is the base of the song. It sounds like Pop music, New Wave, and Punk all had one amazing baby. The guitars are distorted to all hell, to the point where you can barely hear what they are playing (which is awesome in my honest opinion). The last segment of the song is EXTREMELY epic, it is ashame that part is so short though. Still, another refreshing song.

"Don't Worry Baby" is contains more folk elements, while maintaining the expiremental feel. It is a very dark song. This song also has the brass section in it, except it feels MUCH different from "1234". It is used in a much darker way. Although the electric guitars are still present, you can also hear the acoustic, which adds to its folky-ness. In the bridge it almost seems like a chant consisting of  "La La La"s and a lot of gang vocals. Towards the end, there is a little 30 second segment that really isn't part of the actual song. It is a total mood change from sinister to happy. It is very cool though.

"The Heaven & Hell Cotillion" is probably the song I have the most plays on on this record. It is a very fun folk song. It is under two minutes long, but in that time, it will surely make you smile. From the entrance of the banjo, to the yodeling breakdown, this is a really happy song about religious confusion. Chris Farren's witty lyrics add to the upbeat feel to this song.

The next song is "Level With The Devil". This song has a lot of cool tempo changes and mood changes. It is good, but doesn't really stand out. Their is some cool mandolin riffs involved and some weird little melodies, but it just feels a tad to long. In my opinion, the song could end half way through and be much better. It begins to drag towards the end. My advice to the band would have been to somehow split it into two parts, so you could still includ the second half. Either way, this isn't an awful song, it is actually pretty neat.

After that is "Diamond Rings". This is another really dark song. The inclusion of the flute was genius in my opinion. I also really dig the falsetto back up vocals in the chorus. The video for this song captures the mood of the song brilliantly. The third verse and third chorus are where my love for this song truely stands. It just feels so full when you get to that point.

"Tabernacle Song" is a slow song. The base of the song is an acoustic guitar. It is another song with the flute. It also has some piano which really sounds nice. Farren's lyrics really stand out on this song. And the short breakdown feels ten times more emotional than the rest of the song. All around a good poppy folk song.

That song leads straight into "Alligator Assassinator". I can't exactly get behind the meaning of this song. The music is cool though. It sounds like rockabilly music kind of. Or maybe just straight-up rock and roll. The song doesn't stand out though. It almost feels like filler.

"There are Times" is a lead guitar driven song. It is really good. It kind of loses the folk genre and kind of replaces it with Indie music. This song sounds like an indie song. The lead guitar is really catchy. I remember reading somewhere that this is lead singer, Chris Farren's, favorite song he has ever written. I wouldn't blame him. This song get really epic at times. The brass section is back and that adds to the song a lot.

"Cold On The Soul" is the slowest and softest song on the album. It is a really nice track. It shows that Chris Farren doesn't just write witty humerous songs, but also serious poetry. There is no percussion in the song at all. It is all based around an acoustic guitar, a banjo, and a quiet synth in the back. It is about lonliness and has a certain vibe that you really don't hear much anymore.

The closure of the album is "Heart BPM". This is one of Fake Problems best song. It reaches triumphant heights. The lyrics are outstanding. It has a very nostalgic atmosphere. It is one of those songs that make you think about everything from past to future. The inclusion of so many instruments I will not bother to even list adds to this. The song ends with the same drum beat that started the album, which I found really cool. Everything about this song is perfection in my honest opinion. You can't put my love for this song into words, so I will not try!

It seems that this album is just one big party. There is so much gang vocals everywhere, and there are different people playing all different kinds of instruments. I really think this album deserves to be known more than it is. Chris Farren's ability to go from comical to emotional is fantastic, and his ability to blend the two is even more impressive. Unlike Real Ghost Caught On Tape, which relied on lead guitar, this album relies on EVERYTHING. By everything, I mean it literally. It is really nice to hear them blend so many different genres together. You may have noticed I have used the word "epic" over a dozen times. But in my opinion, there is no other adjective that describes this album. That is personally what I like in music.

Highlights : The Heaven & Hell Cotillion, Cold On The Soul, Heart BPM

Music : 9 (Every song sounds unique and fresh)
Lyrics : 7 (Witty and humerous, yet serious)
Artwork : 6 (Front cover is the only artwork in it)

Overall : 8.5

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