The year is 1997 and the landscape of music is moving in a strange direction. Anytime there is a cosmic change in music there are a handful of albums that come out that really point the direction of things to come. One of those albums in particular is the absolute great album The Fat Of The Land by Prodigy. When it was released it debuted at number one in the US on the billboard charts on the heels of breakout singles like “Firestarter,” “Breathe,” and the controversial “Smack My Bitch Up,” which to this day still has one of the coolest music videos ever. This album did a lot for music at the time. The Fat Of The Land has a more rock oriented sound, thus bringing the electronic and rock worlds together. Prodigy’s producer and main songwriter Liam Howlett was all about the group evolving their sound and creating something substantial. Here’s a fun fact Liam Howlett was only 24 years old when he made The Fat Of The Land.
The album contains 10 of the most fiery “dance” tracks ever, as each track has a real purpose and identity on the album. From the more rock tinged songs, to hip hop, and straight up electronic songs, it all works and flows perfectly. Besides the three main singles that everyone knows, other tracks on the record really stand out. The Beastie Boys sampled “Funky Shit” is one of the most danceable tracks on the record, providing the classic sound that The Prodigy is known for. “Serial Thrilla,” is still one of my favorite cuts off the album. It’s super heavy with a great riff to drive the beat. “Mindfields” is another that has some really intriguing electronics. There are a few trip hop moments in the song adding some psychedelia, which can also be heard in the epic “Climbatize.”
I remember hearing this album for the first time, and I was blown away by it. This album really mixes the “rock flair” with electronica so well. It’s often been copied and duplicated but it will never be matched. With a band like The Prodigy, once you release a game changing album like The Fat Of The Land, where do you go from there? After the release and touring cycle, the band took a five year break and returned with new music that was quite underwhelming as well as their subsequent albums. Their last album 2015’s The Day Is My Enemy, had some tracks on it that has some of the same passion as The Fat Of The Land, hopefully fueling some inspiration for the group to return with some great new music.
I remember being 4 years old, watching MTV and seeing the video for “Need You Tonight.” My first thought was I have to have a jacket like the one Michael Hutchence had. Second was this song is great and I need to hear more. So like any good parent would do, mine took me to go get INXS Kick. I was hooked. The album and band was one of my favorites growing up. I can still remember all the videos that aired. Of course I was young and was very focused just on those songs, but as I got older and really listened to the album, I realized how good it truly was. Besides “Devil Inside,” “Need You Tonight,” “New Sensation,” “Never Tear Us Apart,” songs like “Mystify,” “Kick,” “Wild Life” and “Tiny Daggers” are exceptional songs that help to make this album a classic. Michael Hutchence had a voice that was raspy and filled with sensuality that radiated all over the songs. He had a style all his own making him one of the most enigmatic frontmen of the time. Interestingly enough this album was almost not released. When the band turned it into their record company, they hated it. So much so that they offered the band a million dollars to go back and come up with something else. Another point of interest about Kick, is that it was produced by Chris Thomas. Thomas was the guy behind the boards for the Sex Pistols album Never Mind The Bullocks.
INXS’s Kick is one of those timeless albums that stretches beyond just the 80’s. The legacy of the band continues on long after Michael’s death in 1997. They even tried a resurgence in the 2000’s with the TV show contest Rock Star: INXS. Michael Hutchence is one of those frontmen that is just irreplaceable. The band themselves have a tremendous catalog that they can be proud of. Kick is the highlight sure, but there are some other greats out there from them that deserve the attention.
I remember the day I bought Massive Attack’s Mezzanine very clearly. I was at Tower records and was browsing through the aisles and came across this very peculiar cover. It looked like one of the bugs from Starship Troopers. Needless to say, this made me curious as to what this could be. So I took it up to the counter and the guy working told me I made a wise choice. And what a choice I made. Mezzanine is an album that expands the dark undercurrents which had always been present in Massive Attack with textured and darker tones that features abstract and ambient sounds.Subtly drenched among the songs, lies deep influences of The Velvet Underground, The Cure and hints of John Bonham’s ferocious drumming. On an interesting note, and I think this helps to play into the darker vibe of the album, is that while making this album there was quite a lot of tension in the group causing one founding member to leave after the album was completed.
The album begins with a brilliant one, two, three, four, five punch of the songs “Angel,” “Risingson,” “Teardrop,” and “Inertia Creeps,” and “Exchange.” As the album moves on from that point it takes a step back into the darker corner. First with the dramatic “Dissolved Girl,” and then with “Man Next Door,” which features primitive beats, a catchy melody and soulful singing. As the album continues, the psychedelic atmospheric vibe continues to guide the songs through to the end.
There is something truly hypnotic about the way the album flows. Mezzanine is one of the best albums to come out in the last 20 years. It’s also an album that belongs in every music fans collection. So if it’s been a while or you’ve never heard Mezzanine, take the time to get acquainted with it, you’ll thank me later.
2016 will mark 20 years since Fiona Apple’s debut album Tidal was released. Recently I was compelled to take a listen back to this angsty masterpiece. This album is one of the most profound albums of the 1990’s and it is drenched in sensuality, danger and depression all in a good way. Songs like “Criminal,” “Shadowboxer,” “Sleep To Dream,” “Slow Like Honey,” “The First Taste,” and “Never Is A Promise,” have long been stellar tracks on this album. Fiona’s voice shows so much vulnerability and despair, it’s no wonder she was able to connect with so many people that listened to her. There is so many adjectives to describe her and this album. Instead of me going on and on, I’ll stop and let you all take a listen to Tidal and you can soak it all in!
When I first heard With Our Arms To The Sun, I was completely taken aback. The way this band captivated me was astounding. The gents in this band have such passion and skill it bleeds all over this masterful piece of music. There is a true artistic approach to what With Our Arms To The Sun create. They make music for all the right reasons. i’ve had the pleasure of seeing them live and I can tell you their live shows are one hell of an experience. Their album A Far Away Wonder was released last year, and has not left my rotation of albums I listen to. From the start of the album the songs build and explode with great prowess and intensity. There are elements of prog rock, metal, psychedelia and lots of melody throughout the album. Interspersed through the mainly instrumental album are bits of vocals, that add another dimension to the already impressiveness of the record. Every song on this album is in the right order is meant to be there. There is not one ounce of filler on it. Recently, With Our Arms signed to Fade To Silence records and are gearing up to re-release the album as well as preparing for multiple shows including a halloween show with Tool. With Our Arms To The Sun are a transcendent bright spot in a world that is lacking honesty and realism. Do yourself a favor and listen to this and buy it. You won’t be disappointed!!!
21 years ago, Mazzy Star released their second album So Tonight That I Might See. This album has stuck with me since I first heard “Fade Into You.” This genre bending took elements of alternative, pop, and a little bit of psychedelia and made a sensual, deep and beautiful album. Hope Sandoval’s unique and soft voice really sets the tone throughout. Dave Roback’s production and musical arrangements mix in plenty of variety among its tracks without losing sight of what made the group so special to begin with. There is also something very hypnotic about this album. Hope’s vocals across the haze on “Bells Ring” is seductive, her voice is a breath of melody. “Mary of Silence” slows the album down to a near halt, with each thump and beat fading into the ether. “Five String Serenade,” (a cover song from the band Love) is one of the albums finest moments. This version is simple, delicate and minimal in nature. “Wasted,” ripe with distortion, bluesy riff, is the heaviest song of the album’s ten compositions. Album closer, “So Tonight That I Might See,” introduces Native American inspired tribal percussion and the intermittent tambourine crash, covered over with a spoken-word vocal, executed with the signature subtle enthusiasm demonstrated throughout the record. So Tonight That I Might See never tries to be something it’s not. This album is devastating as it is touching and has stood the test of time since it’s release in 1993. This is definitely an album that should be in any music fans collection.
I’ve mentioned before that heavy music has many genres. Some are beyond hard to explain, and some really are simple. In the early 2000’s “METALCORE” landed on the map and a huge statement was made with the release of Alive or Just Breathing. This album is viewed as a defining moment for the genre and was well praised upon its release and to this day. One of the main bright spots of this album are the lyrics. Rather than harp of the negativity of life, the lyrics were aimed to bring a positive message through the music. Musically there is a well woven web of hardcore riffs, thrash riffs, and melodic sensibilities. all these intangibles created a sonically invigorating album. Songs like opener “Numbered Days,” Fixation On The Darkness,” “My Last Serenade,” “Life To Lifeless,” “Just Barely Breathing,” and the fantastic closer “Rise Inside” are all absolute standouts. Actually the entire album start to finish is a gem.
It must be said that Jesse Leach’s vocals on this album are beyond outstanding. His ability to roar then go into such delicate melodic singing is baffling. Guitar wise Adam Dutkiewicz and Joel Stroetzel play off each other extremely well. Each of their tones are just a little bit different, but brought into the mix wonderfully. Mike D’Antonio has a crunchy yet clean bass tone the balances out the clean tones coming from the guitars. The drums on the album were played by Adam Dutkiewicz, and they provide a great back drop for the pace of the songs and the album.
Jesse Leach is one of my favorite singers that have come about in the last 10 years. He really has a unique voice that is passionate and driving. The way he conveys his words in the songs is hypnotic almost. I truly wonder what the next album would have sounded like had Jesse stayed. Thankfully, Jesse is back and their most recent album Disarm The Descent is a powerful statement of his return.