Bicep — Bicep — W.A.C.#5

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My thoughts

Yet another album so recent that the research gives me practically nothing to work with. So the duo Bicep formed in 2009 with a blog highlighting the forgotten tracks in a variety of different electronic styles; that is, Techno, House, Italo etc. After this, in 2012, music production began, but it was another 5 years before the release of an album. On the blog theme, at this rate, we should expect my first album in 2025.

The first thing to take from Bicep’s album of the same name is that we are listening to “deep house” (I’ve been informed this may be wrong) and a representation of the genre, however, not something that entirely forwards it. Indeed, after the first listen I found myself saying: “OK well that was a string of tracks but what did it do?” Basically, you should not expect pulsing climaxes or notable feature artists.

My review has to revolve around “sit back and enjoy” because this is one of the most difficult reviews I’ve had to write. That’s given the time I’ve had to let it exist, too… I’ve no lyrics or chord progression, foreign rhythms or themes to work with. It’s damn hard!

But this album can deliver. What do I mean by that? Well it’s a situation where a progression and evolution happens in sound. The tracks do follow each other… So I’ve spent half my review mincing my words and I could spend the other half doing so. (I will.) I will make an effort to somewhat breakdown.

Picture a night “””out””” (so many quotes necessary). Let’s forgo the drinks, the drugs (if you’re into that sort of thing), the dramas and such and pretend you’re at a club as a critic… Maybe we’ll get somewhere. Here is an album that knows how to push an pull you. Bicep is all about intra-track progression, just listen to Kites… this shows the pure and technical layout of a dance track. This is how these tracks should be… disappearing basses, playful percussion and so on and all with the meticulous eye of someone who (and it cannot be said enough) KNOWS WHAT THEY ARE DOING!

So we’ve got our writers and such … They know how to influence people’s dance floor behaviour – I’ve detailed that before! The intriguing thing about Bicep is that the tracks are self sustaining, in that they can be played as album but also can be separated. Actually, come on guys, this is fascinating. This is sort of your inverse Power Rangers idea, in that generally a group of tracks combine to make an album. But this is an album designed to be separated into a group of tracks… Not like you’d share a margherita pizza, but for how you would share a pizza with olives, anchovies, and capers. This album is not for the pizza fanatic but for the fanatic of that pizza who is interested in the olive ratio.

I’ve been selfish and laughable here. I’m scoring first… Then I’m going to muse over the tracks… It’s a backwards review but I hope that I make some sort of point… If not – well – I wasted some text.

Is this album for you?

Haha – maybe – if you’re into dance music. Not at all an entry point if not. Just – if you have an hour maybe give it a chance. No reallly… Try to see where I’m coming from. If you don’t want to, you’ll never like this!

  • Writing: 7/10
  • Performance: 9/10 (sorry, it really is!)
  • Style: 7/10

 

Right – coda time – and here I get interested myself. Glasses up, fingers down.

Orca – Welcoming – we’ve done it before but it’s your entrance hall of a track. Firm display of the album style.

Glue – Shake up – Rhythm based and kind of reminds me of Minimal Techno. Actually – I really like this one

Kite – Incredibly Solid – this is a track as it should be for a club. Bravo

Vespa – Not really worth talking about. Transition track. Insight or the album but not the place to muse

Ayaya – Just fine for me – bordering on boring. Unless it were  3 am… that might be the  right time

Spring –  Oh hell – I know where this is going and it’s worth it. Probably a must listen.

Drift – Ah probably this feels like a part two but this represents a drift deeper into style. Maybe you should turn back ;). Oh unless you like Tangerine Dream… Then for God’s sake stay.

Opal – Technically good. Yes – technically good… actually the most competent track (maybe) so far, but a little boring again.

Rain – Oh now, HELLO!?… We’re getting big now – Let’s make tonight matter. Brilliant – just great.

Ayr – This is super different. The aim here is a broader, slower track than those before and it shows with the vocals. Another “must listen” but only if you’re into that sort of thing. I think I am…

Vale –  Are Doves Crying? No. Oh. We’ve started in earnest.   Oh that bass! Yes thank you. What a way to round out an album. We’ve done our functional tracks… Here’s our talent… and a great position…

Aura – Double down on the bass, that’s necessary to close us out. It’s an outro really but a fine one, and by that I mean a standard that you should listen to rather than a fluffy “standard”… I enjoyed this album… If this is your music, I’d like to talk more about it…. Casually. Hopefully soon but not definitely.

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Eurovision — or: The Worst Anniversary / Revival Post

Radio silence for well over 6 months. I have been busy!

Why not, though – why not just use the annual May-based music competition to spout my opinions on music. It’s about a year since I started this and I have reviewed 50 albums! I do want to continue and it’s coming… in the mean time – this post will tackle a criticism of the blog so far – I am too kind with my numbers. I am going to rescore my previous albums with a much better system and this post should help. Not now – soon. The summer promises to be somewhat less busy but for now, I’m mostly swamped!

I’ve said all, so now my opinions on Eurovision. I have no standards! Oh I judge, but isn’t that the point? Furthermore, what better place is there to exercise a crappy arbitrary judgment that a forum which presents 26 acts than emulates the current music scene with various degrees of success. It’s fun – it’s OTT and I enjoy it. For those who want a reference, I’m sure you can find the clips on YouTube – else sources exist all over the place, especially TV catch-up.

I will be scoring out of 20: 10 for the song and a further 10 for the performance. I’ll be watching the UK feed, because Graham Norton is worth listening to. Of course, it will just be the final. Let’s see what we like – I recommend watching with your drink of choice. Here we go:

Well the transition music is just the theme from “All Creatures Great and Small”

  1. Ukraine: Mélovin – Under the Ladder – Immediately you are hit with the live aspect, the song is sharp in places. This shouldn’t be relevant. It’s far too generic for me and this even goes down to the staging. Yes there’s a flaming staircase with a baby grand at the top – yes the chap has one oddly coloured eye, and yes he rose out of a coffin at the beginning. Formula, formula, formula. The song was too dull to actually talk about, but for the music theorists among you. Do you find a perfect 5th interesting? Yes? Well this song will work for you.Score: 3/4
  2. Spain: Amaia & Alfred – Tu canción – Oh it’s Disney! Let’s all hug ourselves and genuinely sing at each other with hearts where our pupils should be. I say that but this is Eurovision done far more correctly – by that I mean a bit of saccharine nonsense but with a performance that is as hammy as a charcuterie. There was even a false key change that bated the chorus.Score: 6/7
  3. Slovenia: Lea Sirk – Hvala, ne! – You promise so much from your little dance at the beginning but the performance of this – I could do it! – I describe my general shape with a circumference and could do this. On a more serious note, there is nothing to this song, really and as much as I appreciate getting the crowd involved. Well… Lee Mack sums it up. It borders on less than fine – I am marking this on the day after (rewatching the songs) but I still have my initial scores. It hasn’t changed much.
    Score: 3/4
  4. Lithuania: Ieva Zasimauskaitė – When We’re Old – Oh get up! I appreciate the imagery but it’s insulted by your song and the staging is silly – Graham Norton is right that it feels like “‘bring your husband to work’ day” and that’s all it is.. I’m not a fan of altering a “dainty” voice with one that might be considered acceptable. You enjoyed it – good – but
    Score: 2/2 (and that should be fair)
  5. Austria: Cesár Sampson – Nobody but You – It’s a bit of a reminder of the end of the 2010 decade but not in a bad way. He plays with the crowd with an OK song. I’m into this! His singing is actually very good with his falsetto. It was good with just the right amount of crowd playing. Oh you’re not current but you’re actually good.
    Score: 8/7
  6. Estonia: Elina Nechayeva – La forza – The song is nothing to write home about initially – until she continues singing – Performance wise- the dress effects are brilliant! She can sing too, which I think should be marked as important. Simple and effective – then she keeps proving vocal talent! The performance is all based on stage effects and it bloody well works. Say what you like but from me it gets
    Score: 9/10
  7. Norway: Alexander Rybak – That’s How You Write a Song – I do generally love the animation and stage presence here. It’s got a theme and performance that works with good choreography and the song is catchy as hell. Ah if the catchy-ness were the criterion I marked songs on, this would be worth it but we fall back into formula – perfectly fine for a previous winner. You get full marks for performance, but your song is just on the good side of fine.
    Score: 6.5/10
  8. Portugal: Cláudia Pascoal – O jardim – “Just look in a broody way at your microphone!” Oh this is not good – who’s it for?! You are milking a moment of vocals that actually don’t exist. It’s summed up though, thankfully, with this link. I’m not going to discuss it.
    Score: 2/2 – (if that)
  9. U.K.: SuRie – Storm – This song is way too familiar but I can’t place the tune. I didn’t like this song on hearing it months before. Should I comment on the elephant? Yes – the stage invasion was ugly and generally out of the spirit of things – Whoever you are, this is not the place for your message and I’ll add that crufts doesn’t work either… Complete professional from performance and on that basis an honourary performance: 10 awarded. Invaders like this want just there 15 seconds of fame. That’s it.
    The U.K. song however was a discount take on Annie Lennox, which was definitely fine but that’s it. I’m scoring based on everything around…but utter, utter kudos to SuRie for carrying on. Staging wise it was smart enough, it’s fine Eurovision.
    Score: 6/7 – (but complete 10 for the “moment”)
  10. Serbia: Saynja Ilić & Balkanika –  Nova deca – Oh we’re back to the Eurovision genicness. The staging is fun but remember that a man sweeps to the front to sing. It’s oh so tiresome and with a backing that one would hear in clubs years ago. No. Not for me.
    Score: 4/4
  11. Germany: Michael Schulte – You Let Me Walk Alone – Yes you look like Mick Hucknall. The photos are sweet but for God’s sake this is not about that. Then there was the staging…. it’s alright… it’s good. Can I get a bit more of something? No – alright then…
    Score: 4/4
  12. Albania: ugent Bushpepa – Mall – Oh, sing your heart out! It’s high pitched and worth a listen – his voice is good, nah its great – the stage wasn’t anything to write home about but maybe it’s a lazy point to present something generic – this concerns me in that most of the “big 5” don’t try too hard – Albania? – well hosting takes a lot money.
    Score 4/3
  13. France: Madame Monsieur – Mercy – hence more proof that a generic scenario will work She flirts enough with audience – and by that I mean she acknowledges the stage. Ir’s more boring that that – don’t check it out.
    Score: 2/2
  14. Czech Republic: Mikolas Josef  – Lie to Me – There is a large electroswing element here – and this is dated but it the suave artist who can work so well in the environment. Well executed… Why not and the chap performing – well he’s your mate… well enough… I like it! It’s tight and worth a watch! It’s not for everyone but it’s for me! To Graham Norton, Timberlake is not wrong…
    Score: 7/8.5
  15. Denmark: Rasmussen – Higher Ground – The problem most people have with  Vikings is that they represent metal music – but metal has won Eurovision before. I like the backing chords but it’s Pirates of the Caribbean meets Enya. (Yeah, think about that!) The stage presence is brilliant and an a capella moment just shows song can be fine. I’ve been a little kind, the song is too simple really.
    Scores: 5/5
  16. Ausralia: Jessica Mauboy – We Got Love – You cannot write an interesting song with ridiculously long chords. OK imagine Beyoncé and subtract the ability to sing in tune, the ability to perform choreography and imagine watching it through a Zoopraxiscope (one of those spinning running horse illusion things), because of the amount of strobing. Bad bad bad.
    Scores: 2/1
  17. Finland: Saara Aalto – Monsters – This is a return to Eurovision form in that I don’t really get it but I think that’s about right. The song harks of late 90’s house played by a xylophone but apart from that it’s too simplistic, it’s an extended jingle with fun presence on stage. She…passes; so no hard feelings!
    Scores: 2/6
  18. Bulgaria: Equinox – Bones – I was struggling to write about this until our leads took over. This song has the makings of a chart hit and certainly the staging is good enough. This is quite fine and serviceable for that evening that you will forget.
    Scores: 4/5
  19. Moldova: DoReDoS – My Lucky Day – Brilliant start already and the show style is great for no reason other than to just sit back and enjoy. The choreography is so smart here and if I’d seen more of this I would have said I was missing a lot by cooking at the time the live show was on I should add that you should be willing to notice it sounds foreign, however; take note! It has pep! Great stuff and would be better if it were on more than three notes and not consistently slightly off pitch. (That’s way too grumpy).
    Scores: 6/9
  20. Sweden: Benjamin Ingrosso – Dance You Off – Now this breeds a modern sound (listen to Gallant) with the nostalgia of Justin Timberlake. I think that sometimes if someone gets a whiff of Michael Jackson, but decides it’s not MJ enough, it gets put in the JT bin. This makes the latter sound far too undeserving and is unfair. This is a great song and a super solid performance.
    Scores: 8/9
  21. Hungary: AWS – Viszlát nyár – Ever since Lordi’s win, Eurovision can accept the metal performer. This isn’t quite there as it hits the energetic rock border but let’s give credit where credit is due in that they can at least write a song with a level of substance and stage presence. No true metal fan will have their eyes wide weeping the tears of Odin (or whatever the relevant tear to cry is) but likewise no metal or music fan could say that this wasn’t put together well enough to gig in plenty of places. Not my cup of “mead” but good.
    Scores: 8/7
  22. Israel: Netta – Toy – I wouldn’t say there wasn’t promise to start with but it ended up being a mess with fireworks to enhance it – If I’m not allowed to launch fireworks around the mess that is my life, this song isn’t allowed them. As it stands the song is woefully unbalanced with a synth horn that doesn’t blend with anything and is trying to be about 3 cultures at once. The result is a confusing blend that I imagine was… brighter and louder in person?
    Scores: 3/5
  23. Netherlands: Waylon – “Outlaw in ‘Em” – Oooo it’s country… I guess I don’t have a problem as such except it’s been done to death and what the hell is with the bizarre energetic dance from the backing dancers? It’s nothing that hasn’t been done before but I have to question if the song drained style from the dancers?
    Scores: 2/4
  24. Ireland: Ryan O’Shaughnessy – Together – I don’t hate this at all and the show is at least that! The staging is really very good with a song that is held together by a good singer/performer. I really like this for it’s staging but I think the camera work of the contest kills it a bit. I like the performer enough but sort of think he can sing in his own register a bit. I bet I’d love it if I could see more of an album. Graham Norton was right, as it was pretty serene and pleasant. Definitely!
    Scores: 6/8
  25. Cyprus: Eleni Foureira – Fuego – Oh I thought I’d seen a discount chart artist but this is just a “Single Ladies” choreography. I’ll give to the song that it may be one that you’d remember and would play in clubs. This has attraction in quite a few ways but the performance could be so much more original. I quite like it really but I do not love it.
    Scores: 7/6
  26. Italy: Ermal Meta & Fabrizio Moro – Non mi avete fatto niente – Song wise it’s really quite good in that it has such energy that keeps building. This is what we want to the mildest extent. It contains a message and that is clear that it is built around this. I can’t hate it and the passion is really there. May I say… In my quietest voice… A little boring.
    Scores: 7/3

As always it’s a good mix and a fun night but one that really needs a bit something to take the edge off. These are my rambles written with tongue-so-far-in-cheek-it-tastes-wallpaper.

See those of you who read this soon!

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Because — Aivery — W.A.C.#5

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Because

My Thoughts

I am a big fan of context when writing reviews. I obviously don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of the fact that this is the twelfth studio album for whatever artist but this is so new I don’t have every resource I might normally have; it’s exciting!

We are thrown straight in with a scratchy guitar followed by a short hang before the instruments dive in with Secret. It’s a heavy guitar and pulsing drums. Then we’re joined by the vocals and the sound is damn effective. Immediately the first thing you notice is that this is not grunge that fondles a memory of the 90’s. This already has it’s own signature sound, complete with a nice vocal pattern. You get the tempered melodic vocal line before it launches into the punchier speak-singing style. Sure, we’re not looking at a tune that’ll have you singing to yourself but rather something that will get stuck in your head.

Disregard takes the same sound and honestly the instrumentals do shine here. It’s a regular pulsing sound that could be in danger of getting repetitive until a complete instrumental power move in the latter half of the song. The tempo restrains itself and the beat changes giving a little self indulgence before bouncing back into the main theme. My previous reviews have shown I am a sucker for this sort of contrasting motif within a track and this is no exception.

You Got Lost opens with a really ethereal echoing guitar that is no longer the growling beast that we’ve heard before but rather an almost 70’s over-driven sound. Was the 70’s idea intentional or what I’m going to call a “Floydian slip”? Either way love it and the climax is full of the same energy that we’ve had so far. Then Don’t Dare… We get some crooked parallel minor sixths in the bass and rhythm sections that again forge this really current sound. This entire track is heavily reminding me of something and I absolutely cannot place it. Despite the number of repeated listens.

Long Shot is possibly my favourite track with its 80’s prog rock vibes. I think one could be forgiven for thinking that influences may have been pulled from the well of Rush and that syncopated rhythm and bass is great.

I have to admit to being a little thirsty for more quirky chord progressions at this point. There is a definitive sound that is really strong but for my taste I want to truly here a juicy resolution. It’s my want though and a subjective need. Phoney Eyes sort of delivers my request but not quite in the way I thought. Aivery loves those moments to really just let the instruments jam on their own with these jerky changes in tempo, beat and rhthym. They are incredibly well placed but to continue the point I want that jam to infect the vocals or be a main theme. Again it’s taste.

Envy delivers again with those odd intervals that could have pulled from some alternative metal. I want to take this moment to say really like when instruments pause and you get a kick, kick, kick, from the bass drum, like a heartbeat. I’ve heard it a few times now, not overused but effective when it comes in.

Not Sorry, is an interesting one that seems to keep delivering these off beat moments, I think yet another signature tune for the group, defining the style, now familiar from this album. It bows it’s way straight into Space Between. This is a sort of “best at what we can do” vibe. Every technique that has been executed goes on show to pull the album to a close.

For me this album was a well prepared meal that just held back on the spice. Sure spice is a taste matter but I couldn’t help but feel a bit of restraint in places. Frankly what I want to do is wait for the next helping and check out the back catalogue.

Is this album for you?

I really think this is worth checking out and would recommend a listen. As always, nothing is for everyone and those who like a less polyphonic sound may be a little disappointed. This is one of the more intriguing “give a try” recommendations I have.

Scores:

  • Writing: 8/10
  • Performance: 8/10
  • Style: 8.5/10 (Waiting for that spice!)
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Singing Bones — The Handsome Family — W.A.C.#5

Artist_THE_HANDSOME_FAMILY_album_SINGING_BONES

Singing Bones

My thoughts

Country music has never managed to break into my general taste for various reasons. There’s a certain esoteric nature that I just can’t shake; the genre is about life in the country, or stories, or life lessons… That can’t be a reason to shy from the whole genre… Maybe it’s the omniscient narrator that seems to feature so often, laying out a story or suggesting that we should learn something?… But that isn’t representative of the whole genre… Well! Whether it bores me, puzzles me or irks me, I’ve no choice. Let’s dive in.

Singing Bones is the sixth studio album for The Handsome Family and represents a maturity of form. This album does not contain much in the way of variation. It’s full of ambling ballads and minimalist guitar or banjo backing. On the positive side, the songs are tightly written with a clear knowledge for what makes a good country song.

The Forgotten Lake is a haunting and contemplative amble with guitar and vocals echoing around. The style follows in the next two tracks Gail With The Golden Hair and 24-Hour Store. The former has more of a maudlin feel to it and the latter a more jaunty amble, but they are all the same sort of ambling feeling. Don’t get me wrong here. The songs stand alone quite well and are pretty strongly written but as an album start, the lack of variation really begins to show. It’s an example of a repeated style but the paint-by-numbers harmonies do grate here and there.

Then we hit The Bottomless Hole. Suddenly we get a burst of something different with a Johnny Cash style tale complete with the slightly scratchy vocals. The track itself is a breath of fresh air just for the mild change. Indeed, the following track Far From Any Road, incorporates a Spanish style guitar and the muted trumpets that might well make you think of Tarantino movies. It will also make you think of the show True Detective as it serves as the theme music for the show!

Then If The World Should End In Fire begins and it’s great. This strips all of the instruments out and presents you with an A Capella country song, which I have never heard before and it’s pretty effective, with those silent pauses.

Skipping the return to basics A Shadow Underneath, we have Dry Bones and I don’t know why I like this style more, it’s more Johnny Cash again but the style just has more to pick up on. This journey of discover has shown me that I am not a fan of songs that seem to exhibit no energy or expression, which I’m afraid some tracks are guilty of.

Now I will address the next three tracks together: Fallen Peaches, Whitehaven, and Sleepy. These tracks get more pace by just accepting a drum beat, which begs the question. Why were these songs not encorporated earlier, to change the feel? The order of this album is all wrong! I can’t figure out the logic. Sleepy has a couple of juicy harmonic moments…

The Song Of A Hundred Toads, as you can tell from the title, is a little more lighthearted and somehow seems to reveal an incoming end to the album. It does have the feeling of an ending, like it’s saying: “We’ve done the super deep stuff.”

And we wind out with another A Capella track If The World Should End In Ice. So thought has been given by the structure! We got a mid track and end track that punctuate the album and well! I’ll even ignore the fact that they are clearly the same song, just two separate verses, because it’s effective. I just wish the rest had a bit more mixing!

Overall, I felt a bit of a sense of a relief at the end, and not for the reason you might think. I got what The Handsome Family were going for more. It’s not totally my style and I couldn’t listen to this block as an album again. Also, the fact that non-punctuation tracks seemed a little thrown in, just contributed to the pacing problems that I ultimately felt were there.

Is this album for you?

Now, for many who like the slow ambling country music sound, this album is going to tick those boxes for you! This is not ignorantly written stuff, ignoring issues of ordering I had. Perhaps an evening out in a glorious summer sun with some beer might do enough for the general ambiance to soften feelings. Dip in and be the judge.

Scores

  • Writing: 6.5/10 (variation is still possible!)
  • Performance: 7.5 (decent)
  • Style: 7/10 (generally) …. 4/10 (personally)
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Ez Reviews #5: Blizzard of Ozz – Ozzy Osbourne

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I think it’s fair to say I’ve had a lot of albums recently that I would never normally expect to listen to – but THIS, I’m excited about. The undisputed legend, Ozzy Osbourne. I wouldn’t say I’m a huge metal fan, but I do love a bit of Crazy Train and the prospect of some squealing guitars is thrilling.

Anyway, enough pre-listen gushing. Onwards, into darkness!

My Thoughts

Oh man, that guitar slide. HELLO METAL.

The album opens with I Don’t Know, what I would probably term Classic Ozzy. Chugging, echoing guitar and Ozzy’s signature half-tuneless, half-shouting, all wonderful voice. It’s remarkably sparse – if you’re used to modern metal, that might throw you off. There’s maybe two guitars, a bass and a drum, but all of these things are following a clear, defined rhythm. There’s no fancy fillers. It breaks down into a Floyd-esque middle eight (considering this is the 80s, we can’t be surprised) and then, finally, the guitar solo. Gratuitous, flamboyant, over-the-top.

ALL ABOARD. Crazy Train is probably one of Ozzy’s best known solo songs, and I think for really good reason. The shout, the riff, that driving tempo. It’s almost cheesy-pop in its verses, and then absurdly catchy in the chorus. Here we get some more filler, some more lace-and-frills.

Goodbye to Romance is a total shock. It reminds me more of an ELO-style ballad than a metal song. Ozzy’s voice isn’t truly suited to this kind of song (he doesn’t have an amazing range, and really, he’s not a skilled singer), but it does have a whining, plaintive quality that lends a certain kind of sadness to it. Some of the lyrics might be aimed at his old band members: Goodbye to romance, Goodbye to friends, and then, goodbye to friends, and to all of you. It’s not a love song, in my eyes. It’s a song of regret.

It’s followed by Dee, which showcases some beautiful classical guitar skills by guitarist Randy Rhoads. But there’s only 50 seconds of it before you dive headlong into Suicide Solution, a pure and simple metal song, and also one of Ozzy’s most controversial songs.

Wine is fine but whiskey’s quicker
Suicide is slow with liquor

Some of the guitar solos in this album are insane. The level of skill involved is beyond my comprehension. I have to say, though, that many songs on the album follow a very cut-and-dried formula for writing a song: verse, chorus, verse, chorus, middle eight, verse, chorus.

The other thing I’ve noticed, too, is the songs are all long. On a ten song album. seven run over 4 minutes; four of those songs run over 5, and the longest is a whopping six minutes long. As previously mentioned, because the structure of each song is very samey, you do get the feeling about 3 minutes into every song that you know exactly what’s coming, and you tend to switch off. There’s a strange tendency to fade out, too, that is baffling.

Mr Crowley, however, breaks from this cookie cutter approach. It starts with this odd synth organ sound, again very Floyd reminiscent, like you’re going into some 80s B-Movie, before it becomes more recognisable, and it runs more like a poem.

Then, there’s the bizarre, almost medieval Revelation, which I think is my favourite song on the album. It’s a pleading, sonorous thing of tubular bells and wooden flute, and Ozzy begging, Please let my mother live. It’s like a climactic song from a goth musical, where the main characters all come together for the final act, and it’s wonderful. Piano solo, guitar solo, the tempo rising, the crescendos. Who cares that this song is 6 minutes long, anymore? It plays to every last second of it.

It blends seamlessly into Steal Away (The Night), more classic metal, and the album closes with You Looking at Me, Looking at You, which feels very much like a partner song to Crazy Train.

Is This Album For You?

It’s a tricky one. If you’re into classic metal, I’d say it’s definitely worth a good listen. If you think you don’t like metal, this is a nice, easy album to give a go. It might surprise you. It is definitely not a hard metal album, and if you’re looking for stellar vocals, don’t bother. It is wonderfully Ozzy, though, and that’s hard to deny.

Scores

Writing: 6/10 The skill of the guitar and Revelation bumps this up.

Performance: 8/10

Style: 7/10

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Arrival — ABBA — W.A.C.#5

ABBA_-_Arrival

Arrival

My thoughts

Right – so ABBA is like Quantum Marmite. There exist those who love them, those who hate them and those who seem to love and hate them in a superposition of calling them a guilty pleasure. (Physicists please don’t attack the analogy, I’m just searching for a bit of wordplay.) Irrespective of your feelings, ABBA represented this sudden blast in the pop music of the 70’s after the Eurovision win with Waterloo.

It actually took a couple of albums (this being their fourth) before the group hit the stride of memorable hits – in fact – searching the back catalogue just confirms that there a bunch of forgotten tracks in the early days. Arrival is aptly named as it represents the beginning of the serious main stream pop act rather than the long take off stage.

You hear the opening echoey acoustic guitar with the two female vocalists both singing the melody vocal line in When I kissed The Teacher. The melody isn’t particularly interesting musically but the ABBA nail the one thing they always do; it’s catchy. For better or worse, ABBA songs are ear worms and the act of merely listing track titles may be enough to have the song echoing round the head for the rest of the day. Although the track hasn’t gone down in ABBA’s globally recognised roster, it still uses the interesting chord descending layered harmonies, which define the group.

With the progression into the next song we see their possibly best known hit Dancing Queen…  I have finally figured it out. Everything about the song is catchy. The melody infinitely recognisable, the iconic chorus, the signature piano tones and overall the fact that it’s just ridiculously upbeat pop. There is no denying the formula is spot on and it represents all things cheery. Don’t get me wrong of course, it may even be too bubblegum even to feature in a Disney movie, or any movie with a hint of actual seriousness. This is why it features so prominently in that movie where Meryl Streep leads masses of elderly Greek island women in skipping to the coast to participate in a piece of mass choreography. The cynic in me wonders how many dropped on the way.

Progressing we do see some downsides. With some knowledge of ABBA choruses I kept waiting for continuing songs to break into choruses I knew, for example My Love, My Life frankly wants to burst into Fernando at any moment. (Move on if you’re not as familiar with the source material. As for Knowing Me, Knowing You… well most know it and I constantly got told “I can never hear that song without thinking of Alan Partridge”, rather amusing how much that came up.

Another classic with Money, Money, Money and it’s once again ingrained into popular culture that everyone knows it, possibly from a commercial advertising a consolidating loan. I think I’m being fair; the writing is so good that you can guarantee a memorable hit. I can’t keep reiterating where it’s catchy but I can say that if you staple it to anything, it will stick with people.

Personally, I really love That’s Me, with a lovely chord progression in the verse and the Eurovision style key-changes that never left the group – corny in its own way but a mastery of modulation. Then the miss the mark for me… Why Did It Have To Be Me is a simple blues riff that still has the same talent but falls into the pot of generic, almost filler material. It’s just not a good fit.

Indulge me for a second. Tiger repeats the line:

I am the Tiger

but just put it on and imagine that in the place of Eye of the Tiger, in a Rocky training montage. Have you done that? Good.

The album correctly bows out with a simple instrumental track, Arrival that very much functions as a signature. Yes there are vocals but just the use of “Ah” makes it an instrumental. It’s a sign off as the album is done and the new wave of ABBA is here.

I’ll quickly say that the opening of Fernando sounds a bit like the Pogues’ christmas song… then it just bursts into the well known chorus. Still catchy!

Personally I do like ABBA and I think there was a lot of talent in the group although occasionally there was a lack of expression in the vocals and the songs a tad formulaic. It’s also really pretty catchy, accepting and if you say there is no talent, you are emphatically wrong.

Is this album for you?

…It’s ABBA… You know the answer…

Scores

  • Writing: 9.5/10 (If you disagree then come up with a formula that makes as many zingers yourself)
  • Performance: 8/10
  • Style: 9/10
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Weekly Album Challenge — Week 5

Clearly not as weekly as it once was, I’m hoping to be pretty regular though, maybe we’ll get back there

This weeks list:

  • Arrival — Abba
  • Out of the Blue — Electric Light Orchestra
  • Channel Orange — Frank Ocean
  • Bicep — Bicep
  • Welcome to the Real World — Mr. Mister
  • Physical Graffiti — Led Zeppelin
  • Singing Bones — The Handsome Family
  • Slip — Quicksand
  • Because — Aivery
  • Ocean Drive — Lighthouse Family
  • Different Class — Pulp
  • Galaxy Garden — Lone
  • Singles — Future Islands

Thanks to my parents, Hannah, Michael, Tamsin, Danny, Esme, Phil, Louis, Dan, Faris, Alex and David

And my suggested album for this week:

  • Blizzard of Ozz — Ozzy Osbourne
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