The date is March 19, 1990 and Depeche Mode have just unleashed the masterpiece Violator on the world. This album propelled the band into international notoriety and helped to usher in a new wave of alternative music. I also remember my dad buying me the cassette of Violator when I was 6 and I couldn’t stop listening to it. It’s pretty amazing how much my parents helped to keep my love of music growing since I was a wee lad.
Depeche Mode’s Violator, though only 9 songs, is deep and without compromise. Each song has a genuine purpose of being on the album and you get a genuine sense of “feeling” from every single one. Everyone knows “Personal Jesus,” “Enjoy The Silence,” and “Policy of Truth” but the real gems are the deep cuts on the album. “World In My Eyes,” “Halo” (which is my favorite song on the album), and “Clean” are a trifecta of artistic expression. “Sweetest Perfection” and “Waiting For The Night” are two of the best songs on the album along with “Halo.” Sorry but, I really think “Halo” is one of their best songs ever. The one song that I was never too keen on as a stand alone song “Blue Dress” is quite a dark song. The way it fits right after “Policy Of Truth” is truly remarkable.
The oozing of sexuality and darkness through the entire album is captivating and sophisticating. Martin Gore proved on Violator that he is a force to be reckoned with as a songwriter. Dave Gahan’s voice and conviction singing the words of Gore, makes it seem as though he wrote them himself. Not to mention the production by Mark “Flood” Ellis, (who you might know from his work with U2, Nine Inch Nails, PJ Harvey and The Smashing Pumpkins) which really accentuated the use of synthesizers, live drums, drum machines, and guitars. His knack for getting the best tones for the songs and albums is absolutely remarkable.
Violator stands out in the bands catalog for not only being the most successful but the one that some believe to be their peak of creativity. Personally, I love that the band has been able to keep on their legacy of creating new music and albums that still carry the torch for the band. Since the 25 years since the release of Violator, Depeche Mode has gone on to release 7 more albums and continue to sell out venues all around the world. The magnitude of influence the band has left over the years is insurmountable.
Because electronic music has become such a force within music, I felt compelled to start a category to feature the best electronic artists I’ve come across. Beats Per Minute will showcase all these bands/artists and give you a nice cross section of different styles and genres within the electronic music scene.
For this first one I’d like to introduce to you Robots With Rayguns. Formed by Lucas Patrick Smith in Phoenix, Arizona, Robots With Rayguns oozes with synth driven ballads a la 80’s New Wave and bits of modern electronica. The latest release Slow Jams is a concept album that incorporates all new songs along with revamped versions of older RWR songs. After taking the time to listen to the entire album, there is definitely a sense of continuity between all the songs and it creates a very intriguing “good time” vibe. The way the songs play out in the “ballad” format gives the album a bit of a 70’s R & B vibe as well.
Normally this isn’t something I would gravitate to but there is certainly something catchy about Robots With Rayguns that sticks out. The “good time” vibe that I mentioned above is contagious. You could put this entire album on while having a party, and I’m sure you’d start seeing people dancing out of nowhere.
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Redemption is the first word that comes to mind when talking about the new Foo Fighters album Concrete and Gold. The follow up to the highly disappointing Sonic Highways is everything you’d want in a Foo Fighters album. It has the rock, the great mid tempo songs, and the delicate melodies that we’ve all grown to love and enjoy in a Foo’s album. Concrete and Gold is also seething in inspiration from 70’s rock bands and their albums from that era. Dave Grohl and company deliver the goods and then some. From the riffs, melodies, and all around vibe this album emits, you are in for quite a treat.
As “T-Shirt” begins the album in a way that is reminiscent of “Doll” from The Colour and The Shape, the way the song flows perfectly into the high energy “Run” is undeniable. Not to mention that “Run” is the classic Foo’s song that was very much needed. Plus the video is hilarious. “Make It Right” is a solid mid tempo song that fits in the sequence of the album and also features guest vocals from Justin Timberlake. “The Sky Is A Neighborhood” will be a classic for the band, no doubt about it. Everything about this song is great. “La Dee Da” is one of my favorite songs on the album. The fuzzy bass line (courtesy of the underrated Nate Mendel) that starts the song immediately grabs your attention and the rest of the song rocks your socks off. Allison Mosshart from The Kills guests on this song as well as “The Sky Is A Neighborhood.” Saxophone player Dave Koz lends his sax talents to the song as well. “Dirty Water” is one of those Foo’s songs with delicate melodies and a softer vibe. It’s another one of those songs that in the context of the album it really fits but as a stand alone song, not so much. “Arrows” is one of those songs that really emits the 70’s sound. The guitar work on this song from Chris Shiflett is stellar. The entire band sounds amazing on this song. “Happily Ever After (Zero Hour) seems a little out of place at first listen but, as you keep listening to the album, this song really grows on you especially because of the lyrics. “Sunday Rain” is another of my favorite songs on the record. This song features drummer Taylor Hawkins on lead vocals and he sounds absolutely great. It’s a great change of pace for the band plus this song just rocks. Paul McCartney plays drums on this song too. There is a cool funk vibe on this song that plays into my thought’s of the 70’s influence but, there is also a kind of George Harrison element to it as well from his All Things Must Pass solo album (an album that is truly a masterpiece… George was the most talented Beatle… I dare you to challenge me on that!). Keyboardist Rami Jaffee really shines on this song as well. His contributions to the song really bring out the “vibe.” “The Line” is a classic Foo’s rock song but with a more melodic twist. Having three guitarists in the band really shows on this song. You can really hear each of Dave’s, Chris’s and Pat’s style and tone on this song. Closing out the album is the title track “Concrete and Gold.” This song oozes Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath. Not only is this song a great closer but, it’s also epic in the way it plays out and makes you feel. Surprisingly the “choir like” vocals are provided by Boyz II Men’s Shawn Stockman, and it fits perfectly.
Concrete and Gold is the album the Foo Fighters not only needed to make but also an album the rock world needs. Dave Grohl proves that he is one of this generations best songwriters and the entire band, Taylor, Chris, Nate, Pat and Rami play their asses off on the record. Besides One By One and Wasting Light, I’d dare say this is the most complete Foo Fighters record they have ever released. Thank you Foo Fighters for this album and redeeming yourselves and then some. I can’t wait to hear these songs live. Rock isn’t dead. In fact it’s beyond alive and well!
Over the last few years I’ve really gained an affinity towards electronic music, especially synth driven music. There are quite a few bands that I’ve come across from this realm that I’ve really grown to enjoy. Last night before I was watched Spirit In The Room decimate the audience at The Satellite, I got there just in time to watch a band called Of The Dark I Dare. Their blend of dark wave, goth and haunting synth driven music really peaked my interest. One of the most profound things about Of The Dark I Dare is the vocals of Tracy Lorin. Her voice is soaring and fits the darkness of the beats and synths of drummer Christopher Hendrich and keyboardist Rickey Lumpkin. Lyrically, the words come across as more poetic than just words. Of The Dark I Dare have described their sound as cemetery pop, to which I think is a pretty interesting and provocative way to draw people in. While the music and lyrics are dark, there is definitely a pop sensibility to the band that doesn’t take away from the vibe they are putting out.
Spirit In The Room is one band that I’ve been meaning to check out live for some time. Ever since I started Audioeclectica, I’ve been drawn into the music created by this group. Main man Dennis Sanders is a fountain of inspiration and truly has a knack for writing great songs. The footage I’ve seen of their live shows has always peaked my interest but it wasn’t in the cards for me to get to a show until last night.
On a perfect late summer early fall evening in Silver Lake at The Satellite (formerly Spaceland), Spirit In The Room headlined and gave one of the most passionate performances I’ve seen from a band all year. If there is one thing I’ve come to want to see from a band on stage it’s belief in the music they are playing and Spirit In The Room does just that and then some. Songs like “Cut To The Crash,” “Lick Your Friends,” “When The Spider Disappears,” were not only great live but, just the tip of how good the songs really are. Dennis Sanders along with bassist Darren Howard and guitarist Kyle Nadeau are are astounding live. The element of “recklessness” goes a long way with these three. By combining influences ranging from Depeche Mode and Black Sabbath, to noise rock and bits of dance and doom, Spirit In The Room has created something that stands out. Not only do they get you wanting to dance but, they get you riled up in such a way that is reminiscent of going to an old school punk/metal show.
The Lost Boys, we all remember the movie and how cool it was and still is. There is definitely something timeless about the film. Perhaps it was the era that it was released among all the other great films of the 80’s. Either way, The Lost Boys is still celebrated. The soundtrack to the movie is also one of the best of the time too. One of the songs that has always stood out to me besides “Cry Little Sister,” and “Lost in the Shadows” was Echo and the Bunnymen’s cover of “People Are Strange” by The Doors. It’s one of those covers that when you first hear, you’re a little skeptical but, in the end, you realize it’s a pretty good cover.
20 years ago, there was a travesty of a movie released that put the final nail in the Batman franchise until Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale resurrected it to perfection. The travesty was Batman and Robin. You know, the one with George Clooney as Batman and Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze. I still remember going to see it with one of my oldest and best friends and then after it was over being very disappointed. The thing that I always think about most when this movie comes up is, the inclusion of 2 wonderful songs by The Smashing Pumpkins, “The End is the Beginning is the End,” and “The Beginning is the End is the Beginning.” Those songs still get me every time, especially “The Beginning is the End is the Beginning.” Something else that is interesting about these songs, back in 2009 when Watchmen was released, “The Beginning is the End is the Beginning” found new life as it was the theme for the trailer for the film.