Friday, March 17, 2017

REVIEW: ANGELS AND AIRWAVES' "WE DON'T NEED TO WHISPER"

We Don’t Need To Whisper is the debut album from Angels and Airwarves. Dubbed a “supergroup” by frontman Tom DeLonge, Angels and Airwaves launched in 2006 with their freshman music endeavor. Before the album’s release, DeLonge referred to the album as “the best music in generations” – but does Whisper hold up among the greats?

The content:

We Don’t Need To Whisper is all about aspirations. Aspirations of a new band, aspirations to be the biggest and deepest, and aspirations buried within the album’s ten tracks for life, love, and meaning.

From the very beginning, Whisper makes clear its galactic mood, with the opening track, “Valkyrie Missile”, opening with synthesizers and a back-and-forth spoken word intro. While there’s a certain ego embedded within the song (“Who do you think we are? We’re Angels and Airwaves” is a ballsy lyric to include on a debut album), Whisper overall does a good job of laying down a distinct sonic environment while maintaining the groovy guitar licks that DeLonge perfected in blink-182.

That said, Whisper still feels lost in the inflated infinity that it tries to create with its spacey vibe. The album often struggles to find an instrumental niche – it all feels muddled and uninspired when it gives way to synthesizers and electronic beats. Though there are some more punk-centered influences – tracks like “Distraction” have a Box Car Racer vibe, particularly in the lyrics – there’s no real “hook” in the music that made any particular track a highlight, save for “Valkyrie Missile” and “The War”.

The music itself isn’t bad. It doesn’t even feel uninspired – Angels and Airwaves, in their debut, has a noted U2 influence. It all just seems rather flat and misguided. While some may find enjoyment in the multi-dimensional sound that Whisper provides, for others it may be a frustrating influence.

The impact:

Despite DeLonge’s bombastic, painkiller-induced claims that We Don’t Need To Whisper was the best music in generations, it was met upon its release with mixed reviews.

While many outlets, such as Alternative Press, saw the band’s atmospheric sound as stadium-worthy, others, like Rolling Stone, found the sound excessive and pretentious.

Nevertheless, Whisper went on to reach #4 on the U.S. Billboard 200 and has since sold over 800,000 copies.

Perhaps more importantly, however, is Whisper’s foundation as DeLonge’s step away from blink-182, the massive pop-punk band which went on hiatus in 2005, one year before Whisper’s release.

"I do not want to be in a bullshit pop band with some bullshit pop songs while you drive your fucking bullshit car and sing along to it like you're some 14-year old girl,” DeLonge said in a concert in 2006.

While blink-182 bassist Mark Hoppus started a new pop-punk band, +44, in the wake of blink-182’s hiatus, DeLonge was adamant to be taken seriously as a musician as opposed to writing songs about fucking dogs (yes, blink-182 actually has a song called “Fuck a Dog”). While DeLonge first explored his more mature songwriting chops with 2002’s Box Car Racer, he continued further down that direction after blink-182’s hiatus was made official.

"I always thought blink-182 was my life,” DeLonge said in an interview with Kerrang! Magazine, “but I’ve realized that it wasn't, it was just the first stepping stone."

The future:

Angels and Airwaves’ most recent album, The Dream Walker, released in 2014 alongside a short film entitled Poet Anderson: The Dream Walker. In April 2016, an EP entitled Chasing Shadows in conjunction with a novel of the same name.

In February 2017, DeLonge announced his role as a director Strange Times, a film set to feature new music from Angels and Airwaves.

DeLonge has also spent time following his 2015 departure from blink-182 studying UFOs – most recently, he was named UFO Researcher of the Year by Open Minds TV after a WikiLeaks leak revealed his involvement with John Podesta.

“I kind of use some of my notoriety to do something pretty ambitious and it worked,” DeLonge said in his acceptance video for the award.


Next week’s review: Green Day’s “Dookie”

Friday, March 10, 2017

REVIEW: MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE'S "I BROUGHT YOU MY BULLETS, YOU BROUGHT ME YOUR LOVE"

I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love is the debut album from My Chemical Romance, one of the leading “emo” rock groups of the early 21st century. Though their 2002 debut wouldn’t bring them mainstream success, it helped to lay down groundwork for their later mainstream breakout.

The content:

I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love, with all the makings of a debut album from a fledgling band, simultaneously comes packaged with all the wisdom, wit, and woe you’d expect from veteran songwriters.

There’s variety to be found in Bullets, which both helps and hurts its artfulness. While songs like “Skylines & Turnstiles” and “Cubicles” have a distinct pop-punk vibe, some of the album’s sharper-edged tracks, including “Honey, This Mirror Isn’t Big Enough For The Two Of Us” and “Our Lady Of Sorrows”, carry post-hardcore and even some metal influences. While hearing this level of variety from a band in its infancy is unique, it detracts from the image of the band’s true identity at this point in their career. As in, what’s their main style? Do they have one?

I suspect this may be the origins of the “emo” labelling in the band couldn’t fit itself into any singular genre otherwise. That said, My Chemical Romance executes the balancing act between genres quite well in Bullets.

What Bullets doesn’t have in consistency, however, it certainly carries in lyricism. A particular favorite of mine on this album, “Early Sunsets Over Monroeville”, tells the grim story of a couple affected by a vampire’s bite (vampires are a re-occuring theme in this album). The man in the relationship, to keep from becoming infected himself, must kill his partner, making things “harder at best”. The song laments the man’s difficulty of coming to terms with his decision, reflecting on a time of “Late dawns and early sunsets…Just like up on the screen”. Couple the dark lyrics with the lightest-sounding riffs on the album, and you’ve got one of the most emotional, narrative tracks in MCR’s discography.

“Monroeville” isn’t the only track to couple gloomy lyrics with energetic riffs. “Headfirst For Halos” closes out the album’s front half with a riff that’s catchy as hell, yet features a suicidal narrator declaring, “I think I’ll blow my brains against the ceiling/And as the fragments of my skull begin to fall/Fall on your tongue like pixie dust/Just think happy thoughts!” The darkest lyrics on the entire album, coupled with the album’s bounciest riffs, seems like an unnatural pairing, yet the chemistry between the vocals and the musicality blends together beautifully.

Meanwhile, songs like “Vampires Will Never Hurt You” and “Demolition Lovers” get a little edgier with the instrumentation. The former features a bridge-breakdown that contrasts greatly with the song’s softer opening, while “Demolition Lovers”, the album’s closing epic, features a complex, technical solo unlike anything else on the album.

I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love is ultimately a grab-bag of an album. While its stylings can vary greatly, MCR’s first eleven tracks of their discography still set the scene for greater music to come. That isn’t to say, however, that Bullets doesn’t have anything to offer; while fans will inevitably find filler, Bullets has some killer tracks that are still fan-favorites within the MCR community.

The impact:

I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love, upon its 2002 release through the now-defunct Eyeball Records, didn’t exactly make waves within the larger music community.

To promote the album, the band toured within New Jersey before being noticed by an agent from Reprise Records, who would sign the band to their label in 2003, a year before their mainstream breakout, Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge, was released.

As of 2009, Bullets has sold 300,000 copies in the U.S., bolstered by the mainstream success the band saw long after the debut’s release.

Despite the album’s lack of massive success, however, the album has still seen acclaim for showcasing the band’s grungy, unfiltered beginnings – in true rushed punk spirit, Bullets was recorded over the span of one week.

I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love is incendiary – a gloomy, raw, consuming affair torn and haunted by bleak, bitter depression,” wrote Under The Gun Review. “It’s an astonishingly effective and intimate portrait of what it is to be so afflicted.”

Frontman Gerard Way attributes the rawness of Bullets partly due to an oral procedure he underwent days before he was due to record his vocals.

“The doctors didn’t know what was wrong with me,” said Way at the time of the album’s release. “The thought I had facial nerve paralysis, they thought that I had TMG. I was on all these different drugs, and luckily I was able to sing for two days.”

Though his illness proved to be merely a tooth infection, recording his vocals proved difficult, thus leading to the power behind the fleshed-out yelling on the album.

Following the band’s breakup, Way found appreciation in the album’s anger.

“I'm pissed on this!” Way said as he live-tweeted his commentary on the album in April of 2013. “(I) learned to scream from listening to At The Gates.”

The future:

Given that My Chemical Romance broke up in 2013, there isn’t a whole lot in store for the band. Most recently, a 10th Anniversary re-release of The Black Parade saw release last year, along with a collection of demos and unreleased tracks entitled Living With Ghosts.

The main members of the band are currently keeping themselves busy with various side projects. Gerard Way, who graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York City with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, is working on DC Comics’ Young Animal imprint, which includes a rebooted Doom Patrol run. Brother and MCR bassist Mikey Way has been busy with his rock duo, Electric Century, which released an album in 2016.

Guitarist Frank Iero is currently touring with his band, FrnkIero and the Patience, while guitarist Ray Toro released a solo project, Remember the Laughter, in 2016.


Next week’s review: Angels and Airwaves’ “We Don’t Need To Whisper”

Friday, March 3, 2017

REVIEW: MEGADETH'S "RUST IN PEACE"

Rust In Peace is the fourth album from thrash-metal giants Megadeth. Since its release in 1990, Rust In Peace is often regarded to be one of the greatest thrash-metal albums of all time, amongst Metallica’s Master Of Puppets and Slayer’s Reign in Blood. Its release heralded a mainstream following for Megadeth and is considered to be one of their greatest albums.

The content:

In October, I wrote on Megadeth’s major-label debut, Peace Sells…but Who’s Buying? While I wrote that the album was definitely memorable, it still had its filler that kept Peace Sells from being a masterpiece.

With Rust In Peace, the band’s fourth effort, this is not the case.

All nine tracks on Rust In Peace, in traditional Megadeth fashion, absolutely slaughter the listener with some of the heaviest riffs and solos in thrash-metal history.

One track in particular, “Hangar 18”, is not only the greatest track on the album with its face-melting solos and heavier-than-lead back-half riff, but is perhaps one of the greatest metal tracks ever. After listening to the album multiple times, I keep coming back to “Hangar 18” purely for its unrelenting craft.

Rust In Peace isn’t just about speed, however. The album presents some of Megadeth’s most complex work yet, from tempo changes to progressive riffs. “Poison Was The Cure” a track on the album’s front-half, opens with a sinister bass riff that evolves and churns into the song’s deeper, faster progression.

Much like the musicality, the lyrics within Rust In Peace work with complex themes like the apocalypse, authority, extraterrestrial life, and environmentalism. While some are outright with their spellings of disaster (“Brother will kill brother/Spilling blood across the land” from “Holy Wars…the Punishment Due” is a particularly visual lyric), other songs devote entire halves in which the lyrics give way for the music to tell its own story.

 It’s hard for me to find any real fault within Rust In Peace. Sure, some of its songs are slower, but by no means are they bogged down or drawn out. The music in this album is perhaps some of the best thrash-metal I’ve come across – between the heaviness of “Hangar 18”, the grunginess in “Take No Prisoners”, and the all-around complexity that bleeds into the album’s solos and riffs, Rust In Peace proves itself to be unique and daring on all fronts. For lack of sufficient words, Rust In Peace is as metal as metal gets.

The impact:

Rust In Peace is notable for not only being Megadeth’s defining work, but for shaping the thrash-metal genre as it entered the 1990s.

Cited for its blisteringly fast guitar work and complex instrumentation and tempo changes, the album has been on numerous top lists, including Martin Popoff’s Top 500 Heavy Metal Albums of All Time (at #11) and IGN’s Top 25 Metal Albums (at #4).

The album is also notable for being the first with Megadeth’s stable lineup of frontman Dave Mustaine, bassist David Ellefson, guitarist Marty Friedman and drummer Nick Menza, who passed away in 2016. Though Megadeth is notable for having numerous lineup changes throughout its 30+ year history, the lineup featured on Rust In Peace maintained itself through 1997’s Cryptic Writings before Menza’s departure in 1998.

Mustaine, during the album’s release, spoke of properly following up to the band’s previous releases with their fourth album.

“The only pressure that we had really was in our own heads,” said Mustaine. “Career paranoia is something that everybody deals with if they don't have faith in themselves. So, worrying about having a product that's going to compete with your past is just your own lack of faith. Anybody who doesn't understand what their history is, is destined to repeat it.”

The album would go on to chart at #23 on the Billboard Top 200 and net the band a Grammy nomination for Best Metal Performance.


The future:

Megadeth just recently came off of their first Grammy win for Best Metal Performance for Dystopia, the title track from their 2016 album.

For 2017, Mustaine has expressed interest in repeating the “Big Four” tour that brought Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax together in 2011.

“To have all of the Big Four releasing great new records within 12 months or so, that’s really cool,” said Mustaine. “Now the big question is whether or not the powers-that-be are gonna allow for the four of us to go and do some more Big Four dates.”


Next week’s review: My Chemical Romance’s “I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love”