When I was 23 I tricked the local independent newspaper into letting me write music reviews for them. For a year I engaged in a game with the editor called “can you sneak humor by me?” I lost most times but here are the few times I won:
[The following reviews were originally published in SEE Magazine in 2010-2011]
The Town Pants
“Shore Leave” the fifth album from Vancouver based band The Town Pants can easily be described as a hootenanny. I don’t really know what that is but I assume it includes drinking and a lot of it. That is what this album is all about, themes that include; getting drunk, blacking out, being hung over, and then doing it all again. The music is there, Celtic rock with as much pluck and twang as one would ever need but there comes a point in the album where you start to think that the members of this band have a serious drinking problem and should be put on dialysis immediately to save what is left of their poor organs. A cartoonish bluegrass interpretation of Iron Maiden’s “Run To The Hills” might work live but stands out as the only musical hiccup on the album.
These Kids Wear Crowns
Half of one star.
The self titled debut EP from Chilliwack band These Kids Wear Crowns can only be described as a grind. Unsurprisingly, the band was “discovered” on the television show “DIS-Banded”. So it is no surprise that the whole EP comes off as contrived, like what a lame, inattentive, dad thinks his 13 year old daughter would listen to. I have been in scratch fights that went smoother than this thing. The first track “Break it up” fires the opening salvo, signifying what is sure to be an epic battle between my sanity and my will to write this review. How do you describe this? It’s pop-punk, electro-dance, metal-rap. The album is eight songs but two of them are remix’s of songs that are on the album (A version of “Break it up” with a Celine Dion worthy string section and an extra dancey version of the dance number “Holding On”). It’s just lazy and worse, it’s boring.
Dreams (2010) Sony Music
Why do my favourite artists have to grow old? It seems so unfair. Neil Diamond was a legend once, selling out everywhere and pouring out hit songs and gold records. I hate to say it, but he is old now and gaining downhill momentum. “Dreams” his new album is a collection of cover songs played acoustically. Songs like “ain’t no sunshine” “Midnight Train To Georgia” and McCartney’s “Blackbird” played by Neil himself, sounds awesome right? It is not awesome. It is hack. Neil sounds undeniably tired and old, hard to blame him, but it is depressing. He mails in most of the numbers with slow and plodding guitar arrangement and doesn’t stretch for anything new in the songs. An almost worthwhile version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” is the only saving grace on an otherwise disappointing album.
The Gods must be smiling
Oh jazz, you are so sweet at times, as powerful a music as there is in this world but sometimes you are just the worst. ‘The gods must be smiling’ is an example of how dangerous jazz can be when in the wrong hands. The mental image I got when listening to this album was a big fat cartoon hippo falling down like 2000 steps. The musicianship is there, the artists are obviously talented players but there comes a point where they got bored with entertaining anyone and decided to branch off into the selfish side of improvised jazz which almost always degrades from a recording session to a musical circle-jerk. This is jazz players showing other jazz players all the jazz scales they know. It took Random Access three hours to record this minimally rehearsed album and it shows.
You can’t deny the talent of R. Kelly. His voice is so beautiful that he can ask people if he can pee on them and they say yes. My voice isn’t that nice and neither is yours. As a song writer and lyricist though, R. Kelly is a joke. He has become a parody of himself. “Made love to a stranger in a taxi-cab last night” he says in the cleverly-named song “Taxi Cab”. “The way you put your music on me, symphony should be your name, girl” he belts in “Number One Hit”. He sings amazingly but what he’s singing sounds like it’s ripped from the journal of an unexceptional 14 year old.