Underrated

Underrated and Influential: Placebo

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There are bands that have come out and really influenced other people and bands but, never seem to get their due. A slew of bands from Europe have left their mark on bands from the states. The only thing is, most of America didn’t embrace it or give it a chance. One such band is Placebo. Formed in 1994 in London by singer/guitarist Brian Molko and bassist Stefan Olsdal, Placebo has left their mark in the alternative rock scene for over 20 years. Brian’s unique and distinct voice along with his beyond honest lyrics, have given great inspiration to many throughout the band’s inception.

One of the great things about Placebo is that they are a band that’s never been afraid to expand upon their sound and evolve. Originally when they came out, they were received as a “glam-rock” band by critics and the press, and over the years they worked to put themselves in a position not only escape that categorization but,  to be one of the best rock bands. Lyrically, Brian Molko paints vivid pictures with his words. He lets you in a little bit at a time, so you can understand where he is at in his life and what he has experienced. Hid lyrics are some of the most truthful and thought provoking of the last 20 plus years.

Since 1994, Placebo has released 7 full length albums, each of which get better and better. You might recall first hearing Placebo back in the movie Cruel Intentions, and their song “Every You and Every Me.” Their debut album (self titled), is full of angst and questions in regards to growing up. Something everyone could relate to. Without You I’m Nothing, the band’s second album, saw them grow by leaps and bound and explore a different side of themselves. This album went deeper and featured a more “mellow” sound, making Brian stand out even more. Over the course of the next couple albums Black Market Music and Sleeping With Ghosts, Placebo really began to cement their place in rock music, especially in Europe and with their influences like David Bowie and Robert Smith of The Cure.

My personal favorite album of theirs, Meds, is a great summation of everything the band is about. There is something special about this album. It’s dark and powerful yet it breathes a sense of calm and connection as the songs play through. Songs like “Meds,” Infra Red,” “Drag,” “Follow The Cops Back Home,” “Because I Want You,” “Song To Say Goodbye,” and the very amazing “Blind,” are absolutely perfect. Meds would also mark the last album drummer Steve Hewitt would play in the band. Placebo has gone on to release 2 more full lengths, Battle For The Sun and Loud Like Love, which take the band on a different approach, incorporating more electronics and synths. Both of these albums though are pretty stellar and translate to a whole other space live, especially the songs off of Loud Like Love.

Placebo is a band that deserves their due. They are one of the few bands to truly understand what it is to evolve and pursue their goals without compromising their artistic integrity. There are so many bands that owe Placebo a huge debt of gratitude, which I hope they get. They are masters at their craft and like a fine wine, only gotten better with age.

 

Placebo- Meds:

 

Placebo Live 2003:

 

Placebo Live 2013:

 

Placebo Unplugged:

Unsung Masterpieces: Led Zeppelin- Presence

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Looking back at Led Zeppelin’s catalog there is an album that hardly ever gets its due. The first 6 albums are all acclaimed and highly regarded but, there is one in particular that really needs to be in the conversation as well, and that album is Presence. Released in 1976, Presence is an album that strips it down to the root of drums, bass, guitars and vocals. Presence was written and recorded after Robert Plant was recovering from a serious car accident. Jimmy Page and Robert Plant spent time in Malibu, California working on the ideas that Plant had written during his convalescent period. After some time Page and Plant joined up with John Bonham and John Paul Jones for rehearsals before they went to the studio. After 18 days in the studio, Presence was recorded and mixed.

The songs on the album are quite substantial and poignant. Starting off the album with “Achilles Last Stand” is a statement all on it’s own. This song is the epitome of what Zeppelin is. The 10 and a half minute epic that is “Achilles Last Stand” sets a standard on how to kick off an album. “For Your Life” oozes with blues and pain, as Robert was in a wheelchair while he recorded his vocals for the song. “Royal Orleans” has a funk vibe to it, allowing John Paul Jones to show off his seriously underrated bass skills. “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” is a classic Zeppelin blues jam. Jimmy Page really shines on this song. His guitar playing is astounding and beyond influential. “Candy Store Rock” is probably my least favorite song on the album. It seems like a filler song to an extent and doesn’t have the gusto that other songs on the album have. “Hots On For Nowhere” has an interesting history. The first making of the song goes back to Physical Graffiti as well as live renditions of when Zeppelin would play their extended version of “Dazed and Confused.” Ending the album is “Tea For One,” one of my all time favorite songs by the band. The slow mid tempo build that evolves into a blues epic, along with Robert Plant’s vocals and lyrics. “Tea For One” is also the perfect compliment ending to the album.

Presence is a rock n roll album to the fullest. The guitar tones on this record have been copied throughout the years. Not to mention the overall sound of the album. There is a purity about Presence that shines through and through. Perhaps it’s because of what Robert Plant was going through, or even the bands need to capture their roots again but, I will say this, Presence is a game changing album for any music lover. If you are a fan of rock music, then you need to listen to this album and feel all that it has to offer.

 

Led Zeppelin- Presence:

Underrated and Influential: Vision Of Disorder

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I’ve been a fan of heavy music pretty much my entire life. There are certain genres within the heavy music world that I’ve really come to love over the years. In 1998 I heard a band that really stepped up the hardcore game. That band was Vision Of Disorder and the album was called Imprint. As I do with every band that I wind up really liking, I went out and purchased any other albums by the band. Flash forward many years later as the “MetalCore” genre started growing in leaps and bounds, it really got me thinking that VOD weren’t getting the due they deserved. Vision Of Disorder had a large hand in developing the “metal core” sound and perfected it with the right amounts of hardcore, metal, and melody. The first two VOD albums cement this theory, especially Imprint. Songs like “What You Are,” “12 Steps To Nothing,” “By The River” which featured Phil Anselmo, and “Jada Bloom” are exquisite examples of what the band stands for.  In 2001 the band changed it up a bit on their album From Bliss To Devastation. This album saw more structure and a more pronounced approach to songwriting. The band though grew frustrated by the lack of support from their label and thus Vision of Disorder went on extended hiatus and eventually disbanded. Singer Tim Williams and guitarist Mike Kennedy formed the band Bloodsimple (who released two solidly good albums). Brendan Cohen (drums) and Mike Fleischmann (bass) played in the band Karvnov. Over the years VOD would reunite for scattered shows, then in 2008 the band formally announced their return. The released a new album entitled The Cursed Remain Cursed in 2012 and are gearing up to release the follow up to that album called Razed To The Ground in later 2015.

Vision Of Disorder is a band that deserves the respect of the bands they helped pave the way for. They have a signature sound that sums up what the genre is all about. The music these gents create is passionate and headstrong. I’m happy to say that I’ve had the pleasure of seeing VOD live and they are intense and go for it all every time they are on stage. Do yourself a favor and pick up some VOD albums and see what you missed out on!

Vision Of Disorder:

Imprint:

From Bliss To Devastation:

The Cursed Remain Cursed:

 

Razed To The Ground:

https://www.facebook.com/VisionOfDisorder

Unsung Masterpieces: Hum- You’d Prefer An Astronaut

hum_cover__15558_zoomLet’s travel back to April 1995 and taking what we all know now, we get to experience Hum’s You’d Prefer An Astronaut for all it’s glory when it came out.  Hum was formed in 1989 and released two albums before reaching mainstream exposure with You’d Prefer An Astronaut. The bands 1993 album Electra 2000, was produced by Brad Wood who would soon go on to produce Sunny Day Real Estate’s album Diary. You’d Prefer An Astronaut is Hum’s major label debut album and has gone on to sell over 250,000 copies. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but just as I have said about Failure’s Fantastic Planet, pretty much anyone that picked up this album went on to start a band and become strongly influenced by Hum. Chino Moreno of Deftones has even gone on to say that this album is a big influence in terms of the tones they used. The album is full of atmosphere, depth, and great riffs. There are moments in the song “Why I Like The Robins,” that if you listen to some At the Drive In songs you can really hear Hum’s influence in them. Matt Talbott as a vocalist really knows how to project to get his lyrics across in the right way. Bryan St. Pere is one of hell of an underrated drummer. His knack for the right cymbal  accents is quite astonishing. Guitarist Tim Lash blend his playing perfectly well with Talbott’s. And the bass of Jeff Dimpsey is crunchy and full of grit bit also played with the right amount of precision.

Hum have reunited a few times over the years, leaving many fans to wonder if they will come out with a new album. In June 2015, it was announced that Hum would partake in two brief tours. In August 2015, Hum will open for Failure on the east coast of the United States. After that, Hum will embark on a co-headlining tour with the band Mineral on the west coast. Sadly, after the tour was announced, drummer Bryan St. Pere parted ways with the band, but Jason Gerken of Shiner will fill in for him. 

Thankfully Hum are back, and along with Failure, will continue to be a huge influence on musicians for years to come. Here’s to hoping that Hum get back in the studio and make a great new album.

Hum- You’d Prefer An Astronaut:

By: Brian Lacy