Thursday, June 23, 2011

Listmania #4: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Track

The first album I got with a hidden track on it was Smells Like Teen Spirit.  I thought the CD player was broken because it just kept on ticking after closing track Something in the Way finished... and then, wahey!  Endless Nameless was not exactly Nirvana's finest hour, of course, but it was a cool little extra nonetheless.  Even if it was pretty much nonsensical.

Although vinyl can be double-grooved to include a hidden track, the CD has been the main culprit because it allows for tracks to be hidden in several ways.  As well as the fairly stock-standard "hide an extra song after a whole lot of silence at the end of the last track", the other common tricks are:
  • Include a track which isn't featured on the album's tracklisting (e.g. Iron Gland on the Alice in Chains album Dirt)
  • Stick a bunch of empty CD tracks after the last song and then have an actual song as, say, track 99 on the CD (e.g. Nine Inch Nails' Broken EP which has 6 songs, then 91 empty 1-second tracks, then two actual songs at tracks 98 and 99)
  • Include a track in the 'pre-gap' before each track on a CD.  Normally this is done before Track 1, so the hidden track is actually Track 0.  This means you have to start Track 1 and then manually rewind to get to Track 0 (which is often inaccessible using a computer's CD drive). 
Anyway, this list is dedicated to a few of my favourite hidden tracks.  Either because they're good tracks or because they were clever in some other way.  For a much longer list, check out Wikipedia, home to people with too much time on their hands. 

1. Blur - Me, White Noise (from the album Think Tank)
Track 0 of Think Tank is host to what is quite possibly my favourite Blur song.  Which in this case also annoyed the crap out of me because I couldn't rip it to my computer.  Anyway, Me, White Noise sees Blur once again partnering with Phil Daniels, who provided the vocals to Parklife.  Except, where Parklife was a bit mad in a sort of happy, cheerful, harmless way, Me, White Noise is totally batshit insane (which sort of parallels Blur's sound moving from cheerful pop-rock to all sorts of random Albarn-led experimentation).  It's set to an infectious, grinding beat, and sees Mr. Daniels ranting over the top with such gems as "If I had a gun I would use it" and "You look at the wall, and what does the wall say to you? I ain't the mirror, fuck off!".  Here's a live performance:

2. Probot - I am the Warlock (from the album Probot)
Yeah, I rambled about this in my last post, but what it comes down to is Dave Grohl + Jack Black in the style of Ronnie James Dio = win.  This one's hidden after a bunch of silence on track 11 of the CD and starts at 8:56.

3. Rollins Band - LA Money Train (from the album Get Some Go Again)
So Henry Rollins dumped his old band, got a new one, recorded an album, and hid this little ditty as an unlisted track (#14) on the album.  Most of the album is hard rock but this is a funk jam featuring Wayne Kramer (MC5) on guitar.  Rollins is scene-stealing on the mic with some hilariously satirical spoken word material.

4. Queens of the Stone Age - Feel Good Haha of the Summer (from the album Songs for the Deaf)
This (brilliant) album has all sorts of clever touches - most notably mock radio snippets featuring various musical personalities.  But there's also two hidden tracks - firstly an assortment of random noises hidden in the pre-gap before track 1 (known as The Real Song for the Deaf), and secondly a reprise of Feel Good Hit of the Summer appears at 5:45 of track 13, after some silence.  The thing about this reprise is that it replaces the vocals with laughter (hence why it's known as Feel Good Haha of the Summer).  It sounds dumb but it is actually quite good fun.

5. Type O Negative - various
Admittedly none of the examples I'm about to describe are hidden tracks per se, but frankly it would be wrong to omit Type O Negative from any sort of list relating to amusing exploitation of the CD format.  The emphasis being on amusing:
  • Track 6 of Slow, Deep and Hard, entitled The Misinterpretation of Silence and its Disastrous Consequences is, in fact, silence and was designed to confuse listeners into thinking the CD was over.  Or broken.
  • Track 1 of October Rust, entitled Bad Ground, is 38 seconds of low frequency hum, which sounds like an ungrounded wire.
  • Track 1 of World Coming Down, entitled Skip It, is 11 seconds of the sound of a CD skipping (again obviously designed to confuse first-time listeners!).
Quite the comedians, those Type O boys were.  RIP Peter Steele. 

6. Nine Inch Nails - Physical (You're So) and Suck (from the Broken EP)
Hidden at tracks 98 and 99, after 6 songs and 91 silent 1-second tracks, are two covers.  The first is a sludgy, fuzzy cover of Adam and the Ants, the second is a cover of a song Trent Reznor originally recorded with Pigface.  The latter has actually been performed live on a number of occasions as well and appears on the And All That Could Have Been live CD/DVD.

7. Clutch - 05 / Gifted and Talented / David Rose (from the album The Elephant Riders)
Not content with the old trick of hiding a song on the last track after a bunch of silence, Clutch upped the ante by including one of three songs as a bonus track after The Dragonfly at 7:34.  The three songs were 05, David Rose, and Gifted and Talented and which one you got depended on which pressing of the album you got.  Unless you were in Japan in which case you got all three.  Lucky Japanese.  All damned good tracks too.

8. Korn - Twist (acapella) (from the album Life is Peachy)
Whilst I was never a huge Korn fan, I always had a soft spot for Twist, a glorious 51 seconds of gibberish over thumping bass and a typically eerie detuned guitar line.  To his credit, Jonathan Davis is probably the only man who could pull this off.  Anyway, there's also an acapella version hidden after some silence at the end of track 14.  In this case, removing the instruments just makes the vocals sound even more mental.

9. Mastodon - Pendulous Skin (from the album Blood Mountain)
Track 12 of the album starts with the song Pendulous Skin, continues with 16 minutes of silence, and then at 21:25, we get this hilarious fan letter from none other than Josh Homme:

10. Deftones - Damone (from the album Around the Fur)
At first glance, closing track MX at 37:19 appears to be longer than the rest of the album put together.  That is, however, because most of that is silence, with the bonus track Damone beginning at 32:35.  It's a good song.  I don't know if it's worth sitting through almost half an hour of silence for, though.

11. Stone Temple Pilots - My Second Album (from the album Purple)
Part song, mostly pisstake.  There's some silence on track 11 after the final listed song, Kitchenware and Candybars, concludes, and then at 4:55 there is this cheesy lounge jazz number performed by Richard Peterson.  Ironically, the song references the "12 gracious melodies" motif - which is also displayed on a cake on the album's back cover.  Without this bonus song, there would of course only be 11 songs.  Very funny ha ha.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

On Your Own

So, the other day I picked up tickets to see Chris Cornell doing a solo acoustic tour here in October.  I'm looking forward to it - as well as Soundgarden and solo material, there have been a few other gems turning up in his shows too, such as Temple of the Dog's Hunger Strike.  Admittedly though, what I'm really hoping for is Soundgarden to announce shows down under early next year, either as part of Big Day Out or (preferably) Soundwave Festival.

Notwithstanding his incredible talent, Cornell's solo output has been a little hit or miss.  As in, it has been either quite good - such as Euphoria Morning - or quite dreadful (in what world is it EVER a good idea for rockers to do hip-hop albums with Timbaland?!).  Scream was so bad that Trent Reznor even parodied it (hilariously) for an April Fools Joke a few years ago.

This got me thinking about a few other individuals who, having been part of some pretty kick-ass bands, have subsequently ventured into solo territory.  Often the results are disappointing, but not always.  And - as usual, I'll try to focus on the good and not waste time on the bad.

In fact, Jerry Cantrell is an example of someone who produced some sensational - albeit somewhat overlooked - solo material as Alice in Chains began to wane in the mid-90's when Layne Staley's drug issues got out of control.  His first record, Boggy Depot, showed some promise - some hard AIC moments, and some nice quieter moments - but in my view his second album Degradation Trip is the standout.  According to the man:

"In '98, I locked myself in my house, went out of my mind and wrote 25 songs. I rarely bathed during that period of writing; I sent out for food, I didn't really venture out of my house in three or four months. It was a hell of an experience. The album is an overview of birth to now."
After departing Columbia, Cantrell was label-less and ultimately Roadrunner released the album, Degradation Trip, in mid-2002 as a single-disc.  It was later re-issued in November that year (this time as Degradation Trip Volumes 1 & 2) with the full 25 tracks spanning two discs.  And man it is a beast - incredibly consistent whilst covering an enormous amount of musical territory.  There are sludgy, doomy moments like opener Psychotic Break and Feel the Void.  There are aggressive rockers like Owned, She Was My Girl and Anger Rising.  There are catchy, well-crafted upbeat tracks like Angel Eyes and Give It A Name.  There are genuine, simple, acoustic moments like Gone and 31/32.  And although it's excellent throughout, there's a stunning triple-header of crunching metal epics midway through the first disc which really ups the ante - Hellbound, Spiderbite and Pro False Idol.  One thing I enjoy about it is that although there are some nods to Alice in Chains there, Cantrell - despite being one of AIC's main songwriters - tries a lot of different things on this album and does a great job of all of them.  And in general he doesn't sound like an angry, unwashed recluse.

(it's also worth mentioning that the band line-up assembled for recording Degradation Trip is a veritable supergroup - Cantrell, Robert Trujillo on bass and Mike Bordin on drums)

Also worth a look is the track Leave Me Alone that he contributed to an otherwise forgettable soundtrack for a forgettable movie - The Cable Guy.

Moving on to Mr. Smashing Pumpkins, Billy Corgan, who released a solo album TheFutureEmbrace in 2005 after Zwan disbanded.  Of course you could argue that most Pumpkins records were mostly Billy anyway and you wouldn't be too far from the truth, but this album has his - and only his - name on it.  To be honest, it's not great.  The first half is solid - and there's an intriguing, melancholy take on the Bee Gees' To Love Somebody - but it drops off pretty quick in the second half.  To me it's always felt like Adore II, and I never really liked Adore I.

We have Axl Rose to thank for not one but three separate solo careers after he lawyered the classic Guns N Roses line-up into oblivion.  The first being the current Guns N Roses line-up - Axl with a revolving cast of guests - and inevitably Chinese Democracy wasn't terrible or amazing.  The second being Slash, whose equally-average studio output (both as Slash and with Slash's Snakepit) doesn't, in my opinion, do justice to his excellent live shows.  And the third being Duff McKagan, who has realised a couple of thoroughly worthwhile records with Duff McKagan's Loaded in the last couple of years.

The first, Sick, is fairly straight-up, direct, punk-influenced rock.  Whilst Duff played bass for GnR, he's now on guitar and vocal duties.  He's certainly not the world's strongest singer, but there's a certain world-weary-rock-star tone to his voice that adds a helluva lot of texture to the songs, most notably the broody, acoustic number Mothers Day.

(credit where it's due - Duff looks AND sounds like a rock star)

The recently-released The Taking is more of a hard rock album - and a good one too.  There's some catchy, almost-pop moments in the likes of We Win and Cocaine, but some great rock-out numbers too, particularly Lords of Abaddon and Your Name.

I won't dwell on Rob Zombie too long - he is arguably better known as a solo artist these days than as White Zombie's singer/songwriter.  But it's worth mentioning the fact that I love White Zombie's Astro Creep 2000 and I also love his solo material.  Well, some of it.  His albums can be a bit patchy but I'll forgive him that when he can produce tracks like Superbeast, Dragula, and an unexpected (and great) cover of the Commodores' Brick House.  He even performed it live with Lionel Richie.  In a very 'odd couple' kind of way.  Much as I enjoy Rob, if him and Lionel Richie were The Other Guys, then Lionel would be the Mark Wahlberg telling Rob's Will Ferrell to stop being weird.

Tony Iommi, mostly of Black Sabbath, has also experimented with decent results, notably on 2000's Iommi which sees him teaming with an all-star line-up of collaborators across the course of an album including Henry Rollins, Ozzy Osbourne, Billy Idol, the late Peter Steele (Type O Negative), Phil Anselmo (Pantera, Down), Ian Astbury (the Cult) and Billy Corgan.  My personal favourite track here is Goodbye Lament with Dave Grohl and Brian May.

And, since Dave Grohl is awesome, I'll round this post off with a brief head-nod to the 2003 Probot album, which was basically Dave collaborating with a slew of awesome metal dudes.  The album is well worth a look - obviously more metal than your standard Foos fare.  My personal favourites are Red War (with Max Cavalera), and Shake Your Blood (which I think, despite Lemmy and Dave being good buddies, might be the only recorded pairing of the two).

And a special mention to the album's excellent hidden track, which I still rate as probably the Greatest Hidden Track Ever (future blog topic, methinks), I Am The Warlock featuring Jack Black.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

From Out of Nowhere #2: Throttlerod

I can distinctly remember my introduction to Throttlerod.  It was mid-2004, my last year of university, and as often happened when I had no classes/nothing better to do and my friends were otherwise occupied I trudged down the hill to Real Groovy in search of entertainment.

Spend enough time in music stores and you develop the ability to mentally filter out the store music - at least the stuff you don't want to hear.  Thankfully I had that ability turned off on this particular day because a new (to me) and intriguing band was playing on Real Groovy's PA.  I can distinctly remember thinking at the time that the guitars sounded a lot like Kyuss and I think that's still pretty true - they're thick, heavy and fuzzy.

And of course the other slight Kyuss similarity is that singer Matt Whitehead has a distinctive and somewhat raspy voice - not to the same extent as John Garcia but still interesting and unique.

To be totally fair to both bands, I think that's where the similarities end.  Throttlerod tend to deal in direct, aggressive hard rock with a pretty varied array of more subtle influences - depending which album you're listening to there are grunge, Southern, hardcore, stoner (well, they ARE on Small Stone Records), and classic rock influences.

And that's another of the great joys of Throttlerod.  Listen to a couple of Throttlerod tracks at random (say, Hum and Borrowed Chair) and you could easily think they were by two separate bands.

I guess it's just one of those cases where you have a band who are playing stuff they like, for the hell of it, and therefore they'll change their tack as and when the mood takes them.  It's honest, and you gotta respect them for it.

Anyway, the first album I got was Hell and High Water, which is the band's second, and which I bought because I asked the record store guy what was playing and he said 'this'.  To this day it is still the ONLY album I have purchased because I heard it playing in a record store.  There are some pretty strong Southern and blues influences on this record, coupled with some very tight songwriting and a very direct rock attitude throughout.  Plus it's immediately catchy and enjoyable - maybe one of the reasons I picked up on it in the first place.

Following that I got hold of their debut, Eastbound and Down, which is accurately described by two words: beer-drinking and hell-raising.  One of the great highlights of this album which doesn't pop up quite so much on later records is the drumming, which has rapid-fire fills coming thick and fast throghout.  Swaller is my personal favourite track here but there's a lot to like - even if it's not quite as consistent as their other albums.

There was a very cool mostly-acoustic EP that surfaced somewhere along the way too - Starve the Dead.  For a band that rocks so hard across most of their material, this was a real change of pace and a very well-executed, genuine one too.  But it's hard to find anything Throttlerod have done that isn't genuine.

In my opinion the highlight in Throttlerod's discography is 2006's Nail.  When it comes to records that just sounds supremely pissed-off from start to finish, Nail is head and shoulders above anything else I've heard (though its successor comes close)- simply a mind-bogglingly good demonstration of hard rock.  And it has some wonderfully shouty choruses (e.g. on the title track).  It packs a huge amount into its 10 tracks, my favourite of which is closer Indian Head which begins with a typically monstrous riff and ends by bringing the whole album to a positively stunning crescendo finish.  Plus, there's some clever time signature shifts that bely the raw anger of the record.

2009 saw the release of Pig Charmer.  Style-wise it's closest to Nail in the Throttlerod discography (and almost as angry) but there's some obvious influences from the likes of Helmet and even Black Flag that weren't previously apparent - and it certainly sees the band evolving some more technical time signature trickery too.  There's a couple of absolutely, totally glorious rock moments to boot.  When the bridge riff kicks in (at 2:24 of the video above), it's essentially the musical equivalent of being smacked in the face with a slab of granite, only fun.  Which they subsequently match with an equally monstrous piece of riffmongery in Buffalo too.  I enjoy this album a lot - almost as much as I like Nail.

I'm not sure what's on the cards next for Throttlerod - the internet doesn't really seem to be their thing.  It'd certainly be nice to see another album - but in any event I'm grateful to Real Groovy for the introduction.

Oh, and they did a GREAT cover of Black Betty too:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Listmania #3: Epic!

In an effort to return the word 'epic' to its appropriate use, not the 'kids of today' version, whilst recognising some kick-ass music, today's blog is dedicated to some epic songs.

1. Iron Maiden - The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (13:34)
Actually this satisfies the 'epic' criteria in not one but two ways - it's both heroically long and it references Coleridge's epic poem of the same name (to the point of borrowing lyrics, in places).  Anyway, this is one of Maiden's greatest moments - both in terms of songwriting and musicianship - taking countless musical and dynamic twists and turns neatly bookended by a similar opening and closing theme.

2. Kyuss - Spaceship Landing (11:15)

Until the reformed line-up put out some new material, this is the final Kyuss song on the final Kyuss album, and I'll be damned if it isn't an absolute ripper.  Way to end it on a high note, boys.  The chorus riff might be the best one they ever wrote, especially when you get John Garcia howling 'Whoa yeah, you're a fucked up man, with a fucked up plan' over the top.  Some great solo work from Josh Homme too.

3. Dream Theater - The Count of Tuscany (19:16)

Frankly, this list would be incomplete without a track by Dream Theater, who deserve special mention as the 'band that most frequently defeats the point of using shuffle on my ipod when I go for a run'.  For god's sake, the AVERAGE song length of Dream Theater songs in my library is eight and a half minutes.  Anyway, this is one of my favourites, the last song from their most recent album (and sadly the last to feature Mike Portnoy but LET'S NOT GO THERE).  Stunning intro and a glorious outro and in-between you get all sorts of typically inventive Dream Theater stuff too.

4. Arlo Guthrie - Alice's Restaurant (18:37)

Whether or not this constitutes a song, spoken-word, story-with-guitar or something else entirely (talking blues, according to Wikipedia) is debatable.  But it is a classic.  Based (loosely) on a true story, this was a brilliantly-done satirical protest against the Vietnam War draft cleverly wrapped up as a hilarious tale about littering gone wrong.  And 27 8x10" colour glossy photographs.

5. Pink Floyd - Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V) (13:40) and (Parts VI-IX) (12:31)
Originally intended to be one full song, Floyd split this in two and it opens and closes Wish You Were Here (although there also a couple of edits on Echoes and A Collection of Great Dance Songs which mix and match various parts).  Although they didn't explicitly write it about Syd Barrett, it is a tribute to the former singer who sadly went off the rails.  Bizarrely, during the recording of the album, a near-unrecognisable Barrett wandered in off the street. 

6. Temple of the Dog - Reach Down (11:13)
Temple of the Dog was a supergroup formed from members of Soundgarden and others who would go on to form Pearl Jam, to pay tribute to singer Andrew Wood of Mother Love Bone.  Who died of a heroin overdose, which was quite popular in the Seattle scene at the time.  Anyway, this Chris Cornell-penned number is the most rocking and longest track on the album, featuring some cool vocal harmonies and an extended shred-fest from messrs McCready and Gossard.

7. Clutch - Big News I / Big News II (11:12)
Alright, I'm pushing the boat out including this on account of how it's two separate songs.  But those two separate songs are almost always played back-to-back live with an extended jam in between.  And that's how it pans out in the video below, from a Seattle show in 2005.  And frankly, it's kick-ass.  The first part has an insistent rumbling bassline, a great chorus and a whole lot of carry-on about nautical antics and whiskey, whilst the second is more up-tempo.  And even cooler, if you live in NYC you could hear them play said song about drinking and boats whilst drinking, on a boat.

8. Smashing Pumpkins - United States (9:53)
At a meager 9:53, this might be shorter than some of the other songs on the list but it's still thoroughly worthy.  This song singlehandedly justified the release of the otherwise-rubbish alleged-comeback that was Zeitgeist.  The intensity just broods and builds throughout before things really step up just at around 6:30.  And even more impressive is the fact that despite having a complex, busy shuffle beat to it and multiple tempo changes, drummer Jimmy Chamberlin recorded the entire thing near-flawlessly IN ONE TAKE. 

9. Endless Boogie - Jammin' With Top Dollar (10:22)
Another band who could quite happily fill a list like this all by themselves, the aptly-named Endless Boogie have done a number of wandering psychedelic jams but this is one of their best, along with Empty Eye.  It follows the standard Endless Boogie formula of extended groove with gibberish vocals and rambling solos alternating over the top, but it's a little more direct and hard hitting and less meandering.

10. The Mars Volta - Tetragrammaton (16:42)

It's nothing new for the Mars Volta to write long songs.  What's surprising is that they actually wrote a really long song with a minimal amount of random inexplicable bizarre ambient noise to pad it out.  I mean there's a few quiet bits, but they still have actual guitars not random shrieking.  And the usual Mars Volta stuff - sinister yet incomprehensible lyrics, Omar shredding like a madman, and more mood and tempo shifts than an afternoon in a time machine at the asylum. OK yes they're weird, but it does produce some pretty cool results.  Sometimes.

11. Herbie Hancock - Chameleon (15:45)
Let's be fair, jazz guys were playing long, rambling epics LONG before rock musicians were.  So, shouts to this particularly groovy Herbie Hancock number from 1973's Head Hunters which has one of the funkiest basslines of all time (even though it was actually played on a synthesiser).  Period.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Listmania #2: A few good videos

Someone reminded me today about the Fatboy Slim track Weapon of Choice.  A lot of the late-90's "big beat" stuff has dated really badly - as a lot of dance music does - but that track, which featured Bootsy Collins on vocals, still sounds pretty damn cool. 

One of the great highlights about Weapon of Choice, though, was the video which featured Christopher Walken and which can be viewed here (boo you, Skint Records, for disabling embedding).

That little reminder was possibly a happy coincidence in terms of timing too, as a decent part of last Saturday evening was spent watching, no appreciating, classic 1990's music videos on 63.  So here it is, a Listmania dedicated to a few of my favourite music videos.

Propellerheads - Crash!
So, while we're on the topic of late-90's big beat music videos, here is this little gem from one-album wonders the Propellerheads. It features Messrs. Gifford and White in a kitchen making breakfast.  With Elvis.  In time to the music.  In a comedic manner.  Look, just watch it.

There's no high science here - it's just a goofy, fun concept which works well with the song.

Soundgarden - Black Rain
Directed by Brendon Small of Metalocalypse fame, this cartoon video has some insanely cool art direction.  And Soundgarden control a huge green robot that fights a weird blue alien thing.  Hey - I didn't say it made any sense.  But for sheer 'hell yeah that's cool' factor, this one's a winner.

Foo Fighters - Big Me
Frankly, this list would not be complete without a Foos vid because they have produced a number of stunners.  But I'm gonna opt for Big Me - a great spoof of the Mentos ads - which was arguably responsible for countless subsequent incidences of b-grade movie spoofing, aerial cross-dressing and Lemmy-related antics.

Smashing Pumpkins - Rocket
Whether or not this is actually a great video, I'm not sure.  But there's something about the way the song's upbeat sound combines with the visuals to create something very fun and nostalgic.  I mean, what kid didn't dream of building a rocket and flying it to the stars?  Well these kids actually did it.  They were obviously also clever enough to cross universes Fringe-style to an alternate reality where Billy wasn't such a complete douchebag and so the classic Pumpkins line-up never disbanded.  Now that's what I call low-percentage.

Nine Inch Nails - Only
Simple, but unbelievably fucking cool - this one has to be watched to be fully appreciated.  Directed by David Fincher, and featuring quite possibly the coolest use of Pin Art of all time.  Rob Sheridan's NIN work is always fantastic too but this is simply exceptional.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Black Stone Cherry - Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

You know that great feeling you get when you discover a new band that you think you're really going to like?  Well, I had that after hearing Black Stone Cherry's Lonely Train for the first time a few years ago - it is a truly kick-ass rock song.

See, what I love about these good ole Kentucky boys is that they tip their hat to the old while ushering in the new.  You can hear the influence of the Black Crowes, Led Zeppelin and Lynyrd Skynyrd.  But then you can also hear them putting an almost-metal spin on some of those influences, throwing in some wall-of-sound style riffs and some hellacious wah-solos (see the above at 2:20).

Not everything they've written is as good as Lonely Train, of course, but it should give you some idea.

Anyway, The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is Black Stone Cherry's third album, after their hard-rockin' self-titled debut, and follow-up Folklore and Superstition which took a similar direct approach but added in a few ballads too.

At this point I should add that I generally don't like it when BSC do ballads.  Their efforts aren't bad songs per se, but unfortunately they smack a little of Nickelback-style radio rock.  This is a band that is undoubtedly at their best when are in full-on beer-drinking and hell-raising mode.  Or bourbon-drinking, for that matter - they are from Kentucky after all.

And in that regard, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea largely plays to their strengths.  I mean, I don't know if they were drinking a lot of bourbon when they recorded it but the ass-kicking intent is certainly there.  Most of the record is a riffing, grooving, hard-hitting effort loaded with air-guitar solos.  By this I mean actual solos that demand playing of air-guitar.  Not solos actually played on an air-guitar (which often prove hard to hear).

The tracks that immediately jump out are lead single and album opener White Trash Millionaire (opening lyric: "I got a Trans Am in primer paint") and Blame it on the Boom Boom (you'll thank me for not spoiling the hilarious lyrics on this one for you).   The former showcases pretty much everything that is great about this band.  And on the topic of the vocals, after watching the video below, I've come to the conclusion that babyface Chris Robinson looks nothing like his voice sounds.

And what a cool voice Robinson does have - massive power but a ton of soul as well and a distinctive Southern flavour.  The only other singer I've ever heard with quite the same qualities was former Brand New Sin singer Joe Altier.

My personal favourite track at the moment is Killing Floor, which has some heavy Alice in Chains influences and uses voicebox effects to create a particularly savage guitar sound that would scare the shit out of Peter Frampton.  Combine this with a huge groove, and some sneaky NIN-esque treatments on the backing vocals and you have a massive track (albeit one with some very nice attention to detail too).  Even if the sound engineer is pouring more fuel on the fire of the Loudness Wars.

There are songs that will make you tap your feet (In My Blood).  There are songs that will make you bang your head (Let Me See You Shake).  There are some reasonably blatant (and slightly forgettable) radio moments in the middle - Won't Let Go and Like I Roll.  But then there is also the immaculately written Stay, which is both radio-friendly and a very good song (and a worthy exception to my general rule that this - or any? - band should avoid radio-friendly songs).

Sure, its an album of reasonably straightforward three to four-minute rock songs.  But that's part of its appeal too - honest, gutsy, straight-up hard rock.  Nothing pretentious or showy, just four Kentucky dudes throwing it down and doing a damn good job of it too for the most part.

Anyway, you can check it out for yourself too because the whole album can be streamed here.