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Old 07-10-2009, 08:50 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Artist: Slint
Album: Spiderland
Year: 1992
Label: Touch and Go

Ah, Slint. They've been canonized as post-rock gods, alongside such bands as Talk Talk (overrated), Tortoise (bleh) and Godspeed You Black Emperor (pretty good). Now, usually I'm going to studiously ignore these bands that get so much critical praise, because I'll almost always end up disappointed. It happened with Talk Talk, it happened with Tortoise, and I felt it was going to happen with Slint.

Still, I downloaded Spiderland off iTunes, feeling sure that it was going to be good, but not the masterpiece that the critics made it out to be. What do you know? I wasn't disappointed.

Let's take this song by song, shall we?

Breadcrumb Trail: This song starts with some crystalline, ringing guitars, courtesy of David Pajo (who, incidentally, went on to play in the God-awful Tortoise). It also starts with the strangled mumbling of lead singer Brian McMahan, which he puts on display in all of Slint's songs. It jives well with the guitars, but it makes it almost impossible to hear what he's saying. It sounds gentle and fluid. But then at about the 1:50 mark, it shifts gear dramatically, putting some feedback and piledriver guitars and drums on display, while Brian McMahan shouts, still sounding just as strangled. These volume shifts are pretty characteristic of Slint, and they work. They stop the songs getting stale. The song keeps up a good rhythm throughout, and overall a good listen.

Nosferatu Man: Nosferatu Man begins with a solid bass groove, again showing off Slint's rhythmic senses. The screeching guitars from Breadcrumb Trail make an appearance again while McMahan is singing, and the shift comes again when Slint piles on the feedback at about 2:30, ripping away on their guitars. The drums have more presence in this song, keeping a consistent beat throughout. Combine that with some disarming stop-starts, and this track is an improvement over Breadcrumb Trail. But what the hell is McMahan mumbling about? I can't follow his singing at all.

Don, Aman: Begins with a guitar pattern, while McMahan makes his mumbling more clear, singing about somebody called Don. Unlike the others where it shifts in volume, Don, Aman builds in tempo, the guitars getting faster until it culminates in the guitar feedback similar to Nosferatu Man before shifting back into quietness. The drums and bass don't seem to have so much presence in this song, so it feels a bit more shapeless than the first two. At least McMahan's singing is clearer.

Washer: Same drill. More gentle, flowing guitar work, but the drums are there at the beginning. As usual, Slint sets up a good rhythmic pattern, all the instruments playing their part admirably, while McMahan does more "musical" singing than the borderline spoken-word from the earlier tracks. His whispery vocals set up a nice atmosphere, but this is definitely not a standout track - the guitar feels more watery, with not as much impact.

For Dinner...: More drumming in this track. Slint's drum work has really grown on me; it's almost like it isn't there, but it still feels powerful, and provides a nice backup. They make the track feel ominous and heavy, as do the brooding guitars. It's an instrumental, but this doesn't work for Slint: the lack of Brian McMahan's slurred and yelled dialogues and whispery singing means they're left with nothing but a heavy atmosphere in For Dinner..., which doesn't really stay with you once the song is done.

Good Morning, Captain: Easily the best song on the album. It's a return to the formula of Breadcrumb Trail and Nosferatu Man, with a powerful bass and guitar groove, but now the drums jive well with them, giving this song a strong rhythm to build on. We also see the return of McMahan's whispery, muttered spoken-word pieces, but this time they sound clear, retelling the Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. This is probably their most "complete" track, with the guitar, drum, bass and vocals all coming together into a satisfying whole. It's a very eerie and intense track, and at the end we get a shift into loudness and yelling again, drawing the album to a close.

It's a bit overrated, but not as much as Laughing Stock or Millions Now Living Will Never Die, and in the world of post-rock, what isn't overrated? It lacks the pretension and boringness of most modern post-rock, and should make a fine addition to anyone's record collection. 8.5/10
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Old 07-12-2009, 07:38 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Artist: Brokencyde
Album: I'm Not a Fan... But the Kids Like It!
Year: 2009
Label: Suburban Noize

... I do not want to do this.

At least I got some pleasure out of my last review, because Spiderland is a great album. But this? This is sort of the opposite of my experience with Spiderland. I searched for "worst bands ever" on Google, and I found a lot of references to Brokencyde. Seriously, I could not find one positive review for these guys.

After that, I though, how bad could they really be? Very, very bad.

I'm not taking you track by track like I did with Spiderland - this album has seventeen tracks, and I'd probably run out of things to say. Anyway, *gulp* here goes.

Brokencyde, basically, are a "crunkcore" band. What this means is that they fuse together crunk and screamo, with electronic elements. Unfortunately for them, I hate both crunk and screamo.

What this unholy coupling results in is three rapper-singers with ridiculous names (Se7en, Mik L and Phat J). Mik L does clean vocals, while resorting to one of the worst things in music, Autotune. Autotune is a nifty piece of software; you tell it what notes you're trying to hit, and it corrects you when you screw up. Unfortunately, it would seem that Mik L is tone deaf, because I can hear Autotune in effect everywhere, making him sound vaguely robotic. Se7en and Phat J at least leave Autotune off, but Se7en's beating-up-a-cat howling and Phat J's absurdly low growl do little to distract from the Autotune mess.

I bet you're wondering, "Are there any instruments to distract from the awful vocals?" Just one - a synthesizer, played by our ol' buddy Phat J. Well, at least he's borderline competent in this arena. Several songs, "Freaxxx" and "Sex Toyz" among them, have decent beats that are easy to dance to - nothing special, mind, and they don't really stay with you once the song is done, but they bring Brokencyde up a couple of points.

Oh, I forgot to mention, Brokencyde has two other members. Antz is some dude in shutter sunglasses whose job it is to turn on the fog machine and strobe lights at live shows, and Bree Bree is a loser in a pig costume who acts as their official mascot. Bree Bree at least dances at live shows, but Antz is just Mr. Useless. Se7en, Mik L and Phat J should just admit these guys are financial liabilities, but no, Antz and Bree Bree are here to stay.

But the worst part of Brokencyde by far are the lyrics (or as they say on their MySpace page, "Lyrixxx"), all written by Se7en. For your edification, here's a sample from "Sex Toyz":

I love it when you tease me
You make it seem so easy
When you make my pee pee hard
Girl you make my pee pee hard


... Yeah, all of their lyrixxx are like that. Brokencyde are fascinated by sex, but not in the refreshingly juvenile manner of crunkcore peers 3Oh!3. This is the dirty, stalker sense, and their lyrixxx are just disgusting. Some more, from "2 Drunk", perhaps? (This isn't actually from this album, it's from the BC13 EP, but it's good for demonstrating.)

Up and down back and forth
I'm making you my whore
Up and down back and forth
Girl you will be my whore


Okay, that's enough. I've had enough. And I'm not one to criticize a band for it's image, but look at the way these dorks dress (I'm not inflicting it on your eyes here; look for Brokencyde on Google Images). Some people are actually so revolted by Brokencyde, they think it's a joke band (seeing as how their first, self-released EP was a sensitive emo-rap fest). If it's a joke, it isn't funny. If it isn't a joke, I weep for humanity.

Well, at least I can take consolation in the fact that I'm reviewing Talk Talk's Laughing Stock next and it isn't as bad as this. 1.5/10
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