Tag Archives: NME

Right On Time

It’s 1:00 in the morning and I have to be up at 7:00 but I really wanted to get this out. As always, it’ll be edited once someone texts me my latest mistakes.

Teaser: something big is coming soon.

Album: …Like Clockwork             Artist: Queens of the Stone Age

Like Clockwork

So I’m sitting here reading Josh Homme interviews in preparation to write this, and I can’t lie about it. I knew there was a reason he’s one of my favorite musicians. He’s f***ing hilarious (sorry, being around recording industry majors has done a number on my language skills). The truth is, I’ve been out for awhile because sometimes school and life get in the way, but I’ve also been listening to this album nonstop for like two years months. I mean, two years later and it’s just as good as it was the first time. Better, even — because I wasn’t sure that I liked it the first time I listened.

…Like Clockwork was released in the good ol’ U.S. of A back in June of 2013. It was the band’s sixth studio album, and their first on indie label Matador Records after their time with Interscope. Actually, it was their first album since 2007’s Era Vulgaris. I guess 6 years seems like a helluva time between records, but Homme has been involved in several projects since (including Eagles of Death Metal and Them Crooked Vultures) so it’s not like I’ve missed him or anything.

But I did miss Queens. There’s something about their desert rock that welcomes me in every time — but that’s my dark and twisty side talking. QOTSA is a band that combines the sweet with the dirty and the raunchy with the emotional in a way not many bands manage, and …Like Clockwork embodies that better than any of their albums ever have.

This album is their return to the music scene, and boy do they come in with a bang. The album topped the Billboard 200 chart at number one after it’s release (the only QOTSA album to make it to the number one slot), and all of it’s singles placed on the Billboard Singles chart. …Like Clockwork had critics raving, and it got the band three Grammy nominations. It also landed itself on NME’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list, coming in at #335.

And, if I do say so myself, there’s a reason. This is a band whose lineup has fluctuated over the years to the point of really only having one constant member (Homme), but they seem to have finally locked it in despite losing their drummer half way through recording. The album contains guest spots from everyone to former collaborator Dave Grohl (who rocks my socks, as I’ve said a thousand times before), to the Arctic Monkey’s Alex Turner, to Elton freaking John — who volunteered as an “actual queen,” according to Homme. Former bassist Nick Oliveri even makes an appearance, though not on bass. Together with engineer Mark Rankin, the band has created their best album yet.

…Like Clockwork opens with the sludgy “Keep Your Eyes Peeled,” a track that’s got a slow groove. Right off the bat, you can tell that this album is gonna be good. The song is just a preview of the vocal and instrumental experimentation that’s to come, though. The album really doesn’t kick off until “I Sat By the Ocean.” It’s a groovy song with a slide guitar that sticks with you for days, but not in a bad way. Homme croons “Time wounds all heals as we fade out of view,” while comparing a dead relationship to “passing ships in the night,” on the track, proving from the start that he knows his way around writing lyrics.

Really, the album shows a type of restraint that’s not typical of Queens of the Stone Age. Tracks like “They Vampyre Of Time And Memory” and “…Like Clockwork” balance the slow and tame with the hard rock we’re used to and elicit emotions about rock n’ roll  you didn’t even know you had. There’s a personality in the playing that hasn’t been there before.

But what would a Queens album be if there wasn’t a hard rocker? The uninhibited “My God Is The Sun” brings the desert rock right to the table and flies by — more like what we’d expect from QOTSA — and reminds us just what they’re capable of. Really, there’s no wonder it was nominated for “Best Rock Performance” at the Grammys.

And then there’s my favorite track on the album: “Smooth Sailing.” It’s a cocky strut of a song, but the arrogance is earned as Homme sings, “It’s all in motion/ain’t not stopping now/I got nothing to lose and only one way: up.” It’s a clever song that locks in and rolls, and the way Josh Homme plays with his falsetto just adds to the effect.

Really, everything about this album impresses me. The lyrical content is just fantastic — some of the best the band has put out, I would say. It’s very dark and contains Homme’s ever so infamous cynical sarcasm, but that’s what makes it so great. Lines like “To be vulnerable is needed most of all/If you intend to truly fall apart,” found in “The Vampyre Of Time And Memory” are easy to miss on the first few listens, but once caught force you to think about their meaning.

While the album does lull a little in the middle during “Kalopsia,” it manages to hold your attention from start to finish. Even the six-minute “I Appear Missing” doesn’t feel so long. It’s an album that’s got talent and showcases it in the best way. In the words of Pitchfork’s Stuart Berman, …Like Clockwork is an album that “kicks like a mule even when it dresses like a queen.”

Like this album? Hate this album? Please, let me know in the comments below!

And as always, never stop listening.

Honorable Song Mentions: If I Had A Tail, Fairweather Friends, I Appear Missing, …Like Clockwork

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Wasting Light, But Not Time

Well then. It’s certainly been awhile, hasn’t it? I’ve been planning this update for almost over a month, but between work and moving and school and life — let’s just say writing hasn’t been my priority. Sometimes I really just want to put it off, even though I always have a good time actually doing it. I’d also like to point out that it’s very hard to write when you’re listening to music that doesn’t inspire you.

Oh well. I’m back, and I’m bringing rock n’ roll with me.

Album: Wasting Light                                                       Artist: The Foo Fighters

Wasting Light

I talk about Dave Grohl and what a badass he is all the time, but ironically I don’t think I’ve ever written about a Foo album which is really quite a shame. I mean, the Foos really are a staple of the 90s, and with a rock god like Grohl fronting the group they really just can’t be ignored.

Now, who are The Foo Fighters? Long story short, Dave Grohl (formerly known as the drummer from Nirvana) set out to start a band that he would front after Nirvana and everyone was excited and some people were angry and all in all it turned out to be awesome. I don’t really want to go into the band’s history too much because I think most people are somewhat familiar with them (I mean they sold out Wembly, for pete’s sake). If you aren’t, I suggest looking up “Everlong” and “My Hero” and then maybe you’ll realize that you have heard of this band.

And since that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the album — or more specifically, why I’m writing about this one today. Wasting Light was The Foo’s seventh studio album and it was released in April of 2011 by RCA Records. So you might be asking at this point, “Gee Maddie, why would you write about the seventh album first?”

Well let me tell you what makes this album awesome.

There are a lot of things that make Wasting Light as amazing as it is, but to me I think The Foos did something so incredibly cool when they made this album: it was recorded analog. In Dave Grohl’s garage. At his house. With his kids running around (or so I imagine). So what does that mean exactly? Well I’m sure most of you know, but I’m gonna tell you anyway. The Foo Fighters went old school on this one. Not a single computer was used to make this album. That means what you hear is exactly what the band recorded. Every imperfection was captured as they rocked out in Grohl’s garage. There was no computer to cut and paste, or to edit, or to smooth out. This is how it was supposed to be done. It’s raw and it’s beautiful.

But there are other amazing things about this album. Not only was it recorded analog in a garage, but Wasting Light was also produced by Butch Vig who had previously worked with Grohl during the Nirvana days on Nevermind. Pat Smear also rejoined the band officially for the first time since The Colour and the Shape. With his addition, Wasting Light is a shredder with three guitars. I know that sounds like much, but the layers and the chords are so well done that the album just rocks, exactly like it’s supposed to.

Overall, Wasting Light is about more than just rock n’ roll. It’s about reflections on the past and hopes for the future and it’s about returning to where they came from. Krist Novoselic, the previous bassist for Nirvana) even guested on “I Should Have Known,” a track that makes a few unmistakable references to the late Kurt Cobain. Bob Mould from Hüsker Dü also made a guest appearance on the album, as well as many others.

I think what makes this one of the best Foo albums since the 90s is that you can really tell the band is proud of it. Dave Grohl himself said he wanted this album to encompass their entire sound, regardless of whether or not it would be their best. And I think that the goal was met and was surpassed, if reviews tell you anything.

Wasting Light was not only nominated for six Grammy Awards, but it took home five and wowed critics everywhere. Rolling Stone’s David Fricke and NME’s Rob Parker agree that it is easily the best Foo album since The Colour and the Shape in 1997. With the edgy opener, “Bridge Burning” and subsequent single “Rope” — which is only the second single to debut at #1 on Billboard’s Rock Songs — it’s hard not to get sucked in and as Parker put it, “drive just that little bit faster…”

And where do I stand? Personally, I think this is my favorite album from The Foo Fighters. It’s the kind of album that you don’t get to hear often anymore. It’s the kind of album the artists really poured everything into, just for rock n’ roll’s sake.

But let me know what you think. You can comment here, Facebook, or Twitter, and until next time, keep listening.

Honorable Song Mentions: Rope (I mean that cymbal though), White Limo, Arlandria, Miss The Misery, I Should Have Known

I really encourage you to check out Perker’s NME review here. I think it’s very well written and the guy really likes the album and it’s cool that there’s a critic out there that doens’t shy away from it.

The Rolling Stone article by David Fricke can be found here

Catfishing

Look at that. A post that was promised and it’s even on time. Please, hold the applause.

Album: The Balcony                                                      Artist: Catfish and the Bottlemen

Catfish

Honestly, I don’t know that much about this band. They’re from Whales, which is pretty cool. I don’t know about that many bands from Whales. I do know that they’re fairly new on the scene having just come together in 2010. According to their Wikipedia page, they started off playing covers of The Beatles (which earns them mad respect points) and eventually moved on to writing their own stuff. Originally they just played “opening” gigs in parking lots before other artists’ shows. Soon enough they got their record deal in 2013 and emerged fast by playing the festival route the following year. In September of 2014 they dropped their debut, The Balcony. That was in the UK. Don’t ask me when the good ol’ U.S. of A got it cause I can’t tell you.

So before I say anything about the band or the album, I want to point out that frontman Van McCann (not his real name, but I wish it was) claims his inspiration comes from The Strokes and Oasis. What does this tell us? 1) he has really good taste in music and 2) he’s fond of 90s music. He might be my favorite person already. And might I just say, Catfish nails it.

Now Ben Homewood of NME called Catfish’s sound “about nine years too late.” He said it (or, wrote it rather) pretty negatively. His review called The Balcony “ham-fisted” (whatever that means) and goes on to slam McCann’s lyrics and the band’s overall sound.

My opinion? Homewood just doesn’t appreciate what Catfish is bringing to the table. Or maybe I’m just sentimental. This album is about nine years too late, and I can give him that. But it’s honestly something that needs to be here and now.

So what is their overall sound? Well if Oasis and The Strokes had a baby that grew up to become a rebellious indie teenager under the influence of The Arctic Monkeys, it would be Catfish and the Bottlemen. So let’s talk about that for a second.

First of all, I have mad respect for the band. They said they wanted to sound like The Strokes and Oasis and they do (if not a little lighter on the Oasis side). Not many really pull that off. So maybe that’s a good thing, and maybe that’s a bad thing. Maybe they aren’t original enough. Maybe they know exactly who they want to be as musicians. It could go either way. Regardless, they bring the “indie” sound to an old favorite.

Now The Balcony had it’s fair share of singles. Usually I hate people who only know/talk about the singles, but I’m gonna be that person for a second. I feel like CATB definitely picked their strongest songs to release, and it did them a world of good. “Pacifier” opens up with a distorted guitar riff that’s just screechy enough to hear a definite melody. It’s fast paced and heavy on the drums, and McCann’s actually quite the vocalist. There’s something to say about artists who aren’t afraid to roughen their voice. It’s quite honestly 90s-tastic. And if The Strokes’ influence wasn’t apparent enough in that track, there’s always the ever so pop-rock “Kathleen.”

As far as lyrics, I can admit that McCann has some work to do. He wrote most of The Balcony’s tracks when he was just fifteen and sixteen, so yeah. Some of them are the work of a teenage boy. But some of them hold insight that most sixteen year old boys don’t have. For example, in “Pacifier,” McCann mourns a lack of understanding with a lover as he cries “You just don’t know how it feels to lose/something you never had and never will,” which is a concept I think most people don’t often think about.

The Balcony received mixed reviews. Most critics put it somewhere in the high-middle. Some loved it. Some (like Mr. Homewood) hated it. Regardless of what other critics think though, I liked the album. It’s got something that I think a lot of younger people missed out on in the late 90s and early 2000s — something that I think they shouldn’t have missed out on, and something I was very fortunate to be very exposed to (thanks Lindsay & Erin!). Catfish is merely reviving their opportunity.

Personally, I think they’re a band who know exactly who they want to be. I like what they’ve got and they can only grow from here. I’m very excited to see where they take their sudden fame. And I’m also very excited to see them next month.

Until next week (or whenever the hell it is I post these days), keep listening 🙂