Monday, September 26, 2011

Clutch debut new song and self-titled beer

It seems like it was only yesterday I was writing about exciting new stuff.  Oh wait, it was yesterday.

Well thanks Clutch for making me look like a fool by going and debuting a new song at a live show, a recording of which found its way on to YouTube, uh, yesterday.  The quality isn't amazing, but it's enough to ascertain that this is a further continuation of Clutch's blues-rock awesomeness.  The main riff is very, very groovy and the tempo shift about halfway through is great too.  It feels a little more up-tempo than most of Strange Cousins From the West, which had more of a mid-tempo groove thing going, aside from 10,000 Unstoppable Watts and Freakonomics, of course.

And they've also released their own beer.  That has to be at least as cool as The Sword producing their own hot sauce.

Disclaimer: The author considers Clutch to be the greatest band of all time, and is accordingly is not even vaguely impartial in relation to the above matters.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

New release madness

There is just WAY too much new music today for me to not post something.

Firstly, the new Mastodon album The Hunter, which a few early inter-web listens suggest is extremely awesome.  Check the whole thing out here.

Second, and this one caught me by surprise, Megadeth have posted another track from their forthcoming album TH1RT3EEN on YouTube, Never Dead.  Sounding pretty damned excellent to me so far and I'm optimistic the album will be really good.  The only thing that gives me minor doubts is the fact that two or three of the tracks on there appear to be re-treads of older songs.  Black Swan appeared as a bonus track on some versions of United Abominations, whilst New World Order and Millenium of the Blind (or at least demo versions) date back to Youthanasia.  That being said, Sudden Death and Never Dead in particular are as savage as anything Megadeth have written, so yeah, high hopes for this one.  Here's a taste:

Third, Kasabian release their new album Velociraptor!  I haven't listened to it yet, for me Kasabian are one of those bands I enjoy without getting really excited about (notwithstanding the obviously excellent album title).  It didn't help that the first two Kasabian songs I ever heard were fantastic (Club Foot and Processed Beats) which probably set my expectations a bit high.  Anyway, here's the video for the excellent Processed Beats.

Fourth, Pink Floyd's ambitious reissue project also starts today, with box sets and all sorts of crazy, flash stuff.  I splashed out on the super-mega-ultra version of Dark Side of the Moon because I consider it to be one of the greatest albums of all time.  Here's a video of some dude unboxing said super-mega-ultra version, withsome quite funny comments.

Fifth, Machine Head release their new album Unto the Locust.  Never been huge on Machine Head, but then again I've never delved into them that much either.  Possibly now is the time to start.

Sixth, there is a big deluxe reissue of Nevermind as well.  It's a long way down my list because, frankly, although it is a good album I still think Nirvana were a little over-rated.  They get credited a lot with single-handedly changing music, but in reality they were part of a wider Seattle movement that included Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, as well as others like Mudhoney that barely rate a mention.  And you know it does concern me just a touch when I see kids wearing shirts with pictures of Kurt Cobain and some sort of RIP message, when these kids probably weren't even born when Cobain committed suicide.  Anyway, that might be a topic for a future post.

So, yeah, might be packing lunches from home a bit more often this month.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pearl Jam 20 Soundtrack - review

I'm off to see Pearl Jam 20 on the big screen tonight - and I'm certainly looking forward to it.  Pearl Jam have always had a special place in my music collection - I grew up with their early albums and I like a lot of stuff from their later albums too.  I finally got the chance to see them live in Auckland a couple of years ago, and what a fantastic show it was (and they played Severed Hand too, STOKED!).

It's hard to imagine a better choice of director for the film than Cameron Crowe (who was responsible for Singles and Almost Famous).  But in the meantime, I'm tiding myself over with the soundtrack, comprising a slew of Pearl Jam live recordings, demos and rarities

Pearl Jam releasing live stuff is nothing new, really.  Since Live on Two Legs came out, the band pioneered the concept of making concert recordings available to fans - first on CD, then later digitally.  In true Pearl Jam fashion, this was because they didn't see why fans should have to tolerate expensive, shitty quality bootlegs when they could make cheaper, soundboard-quality recordings available (remember kids, this was before camera phones and YouTube).  Hell, I have 9 or 10 of their shows from various tours myself, including that 2009 Auckland show.

But you know, the (unintended) consequence of that is that it's hard to get excited about a new Pearl Jam live album because there's so much quality stuff already floating around.  Unless it's something a little different, like the mostly-acoustic Live at Benaroya Hall from 2004.

PJ20 is different for a number of reasons.  Firstly - it's a soundtrack to the documentary.  Having not yet seen the film, I can't really say a lot on this particular angle.  But secondly, and perhaps more importantly, PJ20 is career-spanning, and that is what makes it really interesting.

The first disc puts together 14 live recordings in (basically) chronological order, and it's fascinating listening.  See, there is a version of Alive that dates back to when the band was still named Mookie Blaylock.  And equally, there's a version of Just Breathe that was recorded only last year.  There's a version of Garden that was recorded in some tiny venue in Zurich and you can hear the crowd talking in the background.  There's a version of Black lifted from their hard-to-find MTV Unplugged performance.

Comparing those earlier shows with a huge 2010 performance of Betterman from Madison Square Garden where the crowd sing the first verse highlights just how popular the band have become - despite being content to follow their own creative path, which led in a different direction from the massive commercial success of their first three albums.

Ironically, it's a track originally by Mother Love Bone (which featured a pre-Pearl Jam Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard) that provides the biggest highlight of the first disc, an awesome performance of Crown of Thorns recorded in Las Vegas during PJ's 10th anniversary concert.

The second disc has some live material as well, but it's more oriented towards demos.  Generally I don't find a lot to like about demo versions - but there are some gems here, such as a rugged demo version of the Temple of the Dog track Say Hello 2 Heaven that feels so unbelievably 1990 you'd swear you were listening to it on a cassette, and a similarly cool demo of Times of Trouble, its loping main riff somehow made more enjoyable by the sense it's just a few guys mucking around in the studio recording a demo.

From the same era, there's a highly amusing (further) nod to the Seattle scene in the form of a demo cover of Alice in Chains' It Ain't Like That, that carries on until someone starts noodling the main riff from Put You Down.  Later highlights include a solo instrumental acoustic performance of Given to Fly by Mike McCready.

I get the impression that the second disc is intended to give some context to Pearl Jam in the studio versus Pearl Jam live - the first half is all demo versions concluding with a really dark Jeff Ament demo of Nothing As It Seems from 1999, which segues straight into a 2001 live performance of that song.  It wouldn't surprise me at all if these tracks were used as a backdrop to the film's coverage of the 2000 Roskilde tragedy, given the sombre nature of the song and the fact that the dates of the demo and live performances straddle that sad, sad moment.

The remainder of the second disc is a selection of well-chosen and relatively recent live performances, aptly concluding with a great version of live staple Rearviewmirror.

All things considered, it's not a record that will win the band any new fans, nor is it intended to.  The whole premise of PJ20 is to celebrate one of the most influential and unique rock bands of the past two decades, because, frankly, you get the distinct impression that they're the sort of guys who wouldn't make a big deal of it themselves and are happy just writing and playing music.  And in that regard I think the soundtrack succeeds admirably - with memorable live and demo recordings spanning the band's career, and highlighting their evolution.  I'd go so far as to say it's essential listening for any long-time fan of the band.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Take Me To Your Mastodon

For those of you who live under a rock, or are not Mastodon fans, Mastodon's forthcoming album The Hunter is released at the end of this month.

In the past few weeks, my excitement levels for this album have gone from 'moderate' to 'extreme', as the band have drip-fed three tracks out over the internets.  First-up was Black Tongue, which is menacing, heavy, and one hell of a way to open a metal album:

In my view, this a really engaging, well-written song.  It manages to be intense throughout, whilst not playing to the standard verse-chorus-verse structure, and has anyone even bothered to try and count how many fills Brann Dailor lets rip with?

Next up was Curl of the Burl, another in a long line of song titles that make no sense to anyone but Mastodon.

This track actually reminds me of Corrosion of Conformity... it's instantly catchy whilst not being as full-on intense as Black Tongue.  Certainly some more prog leanings on show here too, and the guitars sound awesome - that main riff is just pure toxic sludge.  Plus, you have to respect a song which has an opening lyric like "I killed a man, 'cause he killed my goat".

And then today we got Spectrelight, which is some serious up-tempo old-school Mastodon kick-assery.

Savage, relentless, and with a wicked (not to mention completely unsignalled) tempo change at 1:14.

If these three tracks are anything to go by, The Hunter is looking like one seriously mean album which could even outdo their recent efforts Crack the Skye and Blood Mountain.  You know what you need to do on September 26, folks.

nb: Rumour has it these guys could be on their way down under for Soundwave Festival in 2012 - let's hope so.