Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Listmania #5: Seemed like a good idea at the time...

Inspired by a certain poorly-received collaboration involving a certain metal band and a certain former Velvet Underground member, I had a think about some other situations where artists have tried something slightly or drastically different, to varying degrees of success/failure...

1. Lou Reed and Metallica - Lulu
Old rock dude meets not-quite-so-old metal dudes
Originality: 1/5
Execution: 0/5
So, a couple of big name artists collaborating isn't that original.  Nor do Lou Reed and Metallica really constitute an 'odd couple' pairing.  The only thing that is a little different and original here is that the album itself has some funny concept thing going on that I didn't really have the patience to delve into too deeply.  At times Metallica deliver some decent grooves but the glaring problem is that the collaboration just doesn't work on any level, and this should have been obvious from their duet on Sweet Jane last year.  Something about Hetfield and Reed's vocal styles just grates when they're alongside each other.  Anyway, there's been enough negatives about this and I don't really dig negative-for-the-hell-of-it.  Chuck Klosterman wrote, "If the Red Hot Chili Peppers acoustically covered the 12 worst Primus songs for Starbucks, it would still be (slightly) better than this" and that more or less covers it.

2. Rage Against the Machine - Renegades
Revolutionary rockers do an album of other people's songs
Originality: 2/5
Execution: 4/5 
Covers albums are also not that original.  But Rage were always the sort to carve their own path, and so they get a couple of stars for originality, and having the guts to completely reinvent Bob Dylan's Maggie's Farm.

Renegades is a strong album, and the covers of Bruce Springsteen's The Ghost of Tom Joad, Afrika Bambaataa's Renegades of Funk, and Cypress Hill's How Could I Just Kill A Man are amongst the highlights.

3. The Flaming Lips - Zaireeka
Parking lot experiments lead to 'synchronous' album
Originality: 4.5/5
Execution: not rated
So, the Flaming Lips are no strangers to trying weird and wonderful things, but this was one of their first really crazy things (as opposed to just regular crazy stuff i.e. their 'normal' discography).  Inspired by a whole lot of fooling around with cassette tapes played on multiple cars at the same time in parking lots, the Lips released an album that spanned 4 CDs, designed to be played on 4 separate stereos at the same time.  This might sound crazy but you'd be amazed to learn that it actually pales into insignificance compared to some of their more recent adventures...

4. Public Enemy vs. Anthrax - Bring tha Noise
You can blame this for rap metal but it actually was a good idea at the time...
Originality: 4/5
Execution: 5/5
Cross-genre collaborations are nothing weird now, but take yourself back to 1991 and the concept of a bunch of bogan white dudes collaborating with a very politically motivated black hip-hop group was pretty groundbreaking.  Not to mention the fact they subsequently went on tour together (with what I'm guessing were particularly awkward crowds).  While this unfortunately gave birth to a bunch of really shitty rap metal bands, you can't blame these guys for having lame imitators.  This track sits comfortably alongside the best material from both of these groups, which is pretty rare for collaborations of this ilk.

5. Korn - The Path of Totality
Fad band from 90's attempts to cash in on current dance fad
Originality: 2/5
Execution: I don't want to find out 
In the 90's Korn did the whole angsty teen nu-metal thing.  It had its moments at the time but they haven't really changed a lot and Jonathan Davis doing teen angst at age 40 is rather lame.  But now they're doing a dubstep album with various collaborators (some of which, like Noisia, are actually quite credible... for now) and this pretty much screams 'tryhard attempt to be relevant'.  Dance/rock crossovers haven't been anything particularly unusual since the Spawn soundtrack in the mid-90's and tend to date as badly as electronic music in general, so I don't this one is going to score highly on any fronts.

And the winner is...
6. The Flaming Lips - 7 Skies H3
24 hour song encased in human skull
Originality: 5/5
Execution: I don't have the time to find out
So here is the deal: the Flaming Lips have produced a 24-hour song, which will have a physical release limited to 13 copies, each on a USB drive encased inside a chrome-covered (actual) human skull.  You can stream it online too, if you happen to have a spare day.

I've come to the conclusion that there are only two logical explanations for this:
1. Oklahoma (the Lips' home town) is more boring than you or I could possibly imagine, and/or
2. Wayne Coyne and co. were visited by aliens and given some absurdly hallucinogenic time-warping drugs.

Either way, there certainly aren't many acts around that would come up with this sort of thing.

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