Thursday, March 22, 2012

Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired - Joyce Manor (Review)

The first time everyone really got a chance to know the band, Joyce Manor, was last year when they released their debut self titled album. That album was praised by everyone. Aside from Reinventing Axl  Rose by Against Me!, this was one of the best debut full lengths in a VERY long time. It was at the top of all kinds of lists, it was given close to perfect reviews on everything, and it was just, overall, embraced by the punk community. It was fresh. It was a ten track album of straight forward punk rock with only a few songs breaking the two minute mark. With a debut like that, It is hard to keep things together and reach the expectations of the listeners. Considering how good that album was, I don't find it possible to reach those expectations. This one is no exception. It is not bad, it is just not what I had in mind.

As you start "These Kind Of Ice Skates", it sounds similar to the sound they have become known for since their previous album. That is all soon going to change. The second half of this song is where you realize how much they have experimented on this album. And I don't mean that in a bad way. It is still good stuff, it is just not what anyone expected (me at least).  The second half of this song is just really odd (in a good way, I guess).

"Comfortable Clothes" is one of the best tracks on the album. It sounds like their signature sound, in your face straight forward punk rock. This is one of the tracks which they had previously played live many times, which led us to believe that the whole album would be the same. That was not the case. There is only a few songs on here that have that kind of sound. Those ones being the best of the album.

After that comes "See How Tame I Can Be". This is another really different one. It is one that has an 80's type sound. It sounds like something I can imagine The Strokes releasing. "Joyce Manor releasing Strokes-esqu music, what?" Yea I know, that was my reaction. You really can't just imagine this. You have to hear it for yourself. For what it is, they pull it off pretty well, I must admit.

Next is "Drainage". It is a static filled lo fi acoustic song. It is pretty slow for a Joyce Manor track. It is also pretty dark and emotional. Especially when the piano comes in. Very weird track, but still okay.

"Video Killed The Radio Star" is a cover of the Buggles song of the same name. It sounds really weird, Joyce Manor covering an 80s new wave song, but it really sounds nothing like the original. They really made it their own. It has so much energy. It is actually a very good version of the song. If this was not a cover, it would probably be the overall highlight of the album.

"If I Needed You There" is another one of those classic Joyce-sounding songs. It is these songs that hold this album up and help it from completely tumbling over. This song is the fastest song on the album. It is one of those songs that make you feel like breaking something. Besides some minor production changes, I could easily imagine this being on the Self Titled LP.

Then comes "Bride Of Usher" which is another weird one coming from Joyce Manor. It sounds happier than their usual stuff. It sounds "beachy" for the lack of a better word. I guess what I am trying to say is that I could picture this being on Fake Problems' latest album Real Ghosts Caught On Tape. I am not so sure how I feel about this one. It is cool and all, but it is just not what I want to listen to when I hear a Joyce Manor record.

"Violent Inside" is another pretty good track. It is a tad too "pop-punky" for my liking, but it still is very good. It took me a few listens to appreciate it, but I eventually did. What this song is about is very relatable for me, also. It is about growing up as a punk kid and little things pissing you off that don't piss of normal people. That is something I deal with a lot. So that is another reason I really like this song,

The last song, "I'm Always Tired", is another acoustic track, except this sounds more like traditional Joyce Manor than "Drainage". It is a high tempo pop punk song with just an acoustic guitar. If this had electric guitars, drums, bass, and about 30 more seconds, this song would not be "odd" at all.

Maybe not what we expected, but it is still a pretty good album. I am heavily enjoying this album regardless of how it holds up against their previous album. Some of the weird songs throw you off a course a bit while listening, but you get over it quick. The first time listening, you will probably be confused (I sure was), but you get used to it after a few listens. One thing I loved about the first album was the length of the songs and the length of the album overall. It was all very short and very easy to listen to. This album takes that to the extreme, with only nine songs, making it only a thirteen minute album. I am all for short albums, but I am not so sure about this. It may be a little too short. Either way, it is still a fun album and I still look forward to what they do in the future.

Highlights : Comfortable Clothes, If I Needed You There, Violent Inside

Music : 8 (different, but still very good)
Lyrics : 7 (I actually like them a lot)
Artwork : 6 (Nothing special)

Overall : 7.5

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Women And Work - Lucero (Review)

I always used to believe that this band could do absolutely no wrong.  I was happy with every album released by this band. While some were disappointed and busy complaining over the brass section in 1372 Overton Park, I was enjoying it. I just love the chemistry of this band. It is all so new and unique. It is really rare to find a band like that. That raw edgy country, punk and rock n' roll made it hard for me not to like this band. Well...all those thoughts were stacked on a shelf with the release of this record.

"Downtown (Into)" gives you the first taste of disappointment from Lucero (or at least my first taste). Although it is only an intro, and it is only a minute long, it gives you a glimpse on what the rest of the album has in store for you. The first time you realize that Ben's voice is completely polished and loses the whole raw sloppy thing you began loving Lucero for...That is a painful feeling."

After that is "On My Way Downtown". It sounds similar to the first song. Except this is where you officially except that THIS is what the band has turned into, a good band that has resorted to the sound of mainstream country artists such as Toby Keith. It is a shame. It really is.

"Women & Work" adds more of a "boogie woogie" element to the album, but still has the core style of the first two songs. The piano seems a tad more present. And the brass section parts really seem to get under my skin. They seem really cheesy and predictable. This song is one of the low points on the album, partially because I really don't think this "boogie woogie" style is necessary. I personally think their sad songs are better and I miss those songs.

Next is "It May Be Too Late". I am not going to lie. This song is actually pretty catchy. I actually like it. The lyrics continue that corny type that this album seems to be full of, but its actually a pretty sad song musically. This one may be one of the bests on it. I get the chorus stuck in my head whenever I listen to it. That should be a sign of something.

And now comes "Juniper". This is the "Sixes and Sevens" of this album ("Sixes and Sevens was the bummer of the last album). It honestly sounds like a failed attempt to make a Lucinda Williams song. It is tremendously   awful. It is garbage. It carries the same Toby Keith and Keith Urban type sound. Which is not something I want to hear on a Lucero album!

"Who You Waiting On?" sounds like a full on pop song. Besides his southern accent, there is not many traces of any country music, and the punk rock element to their music is totally absent in this song. I can't figure out what they are going for in this song. It is really out of place. I don't understand the significance of this song at all.

"I Can't Stand To Leave You" is the next track. Now this song I can get behind. Their older music definitely holds a stronger influence in this song than the rest of the album. Besides Ben's voice (just like the rest of the album), and some production changes, this could of fit on some of their older albums perfectly. The whole song is a giant build. I personally think this should have opened the album. That would have gave a better first impression.

Next comes "When I Was Young". This song is the least memorably on the entire album. Not to say it is the worst, but just so easily forgotten. I actually legitimately forgot about this song after my first listen to the album. It brings nothing new to the album at all. From the start of the song, you expect something more to come out of it, but no. You are left waiting for something that isn't coming. And that really is how I felt for the whole album.

"Sometimes" is enjoyable compared to the low points on the album. It is nothing special, but on such a bland album like this, "ok songs" are required. This is one of those required songs. It is a tad boring and mellow, but that is SO much better than the lame attempts to "rock" on this album.

"Like Lightning" is another "rock" song, which, in my opinion, is just stupid this close to the end of the album, but this song would be bad regardless where it was placed. It is such a generic rock song. It starts with a little ragtime saloon style piano riff, which is actually pretty cool and refreshing. It sounds like something you would  hear in an Old West film. If the song stayed with that kind of style, I would actually like probably like it. The piano still plays throughout the entire song, but it is covered by an unneeded brass section and obnoxious guitar solos. Oh well.

"Go Easy" sounds like the song "Mom" from their previous album, except not as emotional of course. There are some back up soul singers in this song which add a new element to the music. I am not sure I heard these type of singers on a Lucero song before which is cool for a change, I guess. This is another song that makes you a tad disappointed though because you expect more to come out of it. It is not an awful song though. Still, it is not on par with other Lucero music.

Overall, I guess the key word is "disappointed". This is not that terrible of an album. It is just the fact that you expect more from a band with such potential. And it honestly makes me sad that it has reached a point where I am writing a bad review for their albums, but I have to. So many things factor into the disappointment. Number one being Ben's voice being over rehearsed and losing all of the passion it had originally. Others being over production, cheesy lyrics, and abandoning all sense of emotion. They seem to be taking the same path as Social Distortion with Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes, except far worse than that album. The album artwork is also terrible. That being my first impression, I still didn't think the music would be this bad. I still have hope for the future of the band, but for now, I guess I will have to deal with what I have.

Highlights : It May Be Too Late, I Can't Stand To Leave You, Sometimes

Music : 6.5 (Not even close to any other Lucero album)
Lyrics : 6 (Very cheesy and corny)
Artwork : 3 (Absolutely dreadful and a very bad first impression)

Overall : 5.5

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