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Old 02-10-2009, 03:27 PM   #21 (permalink)
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So to anyone who actually cares, today I am reviewing a...*gasp* POP ALBUM FROM THE 80's!! AND IT CHARTED TOO!! OMG!!!!

Not really obscure/curious, but I hope you guys like it...

Level 42 - World Machine (1985)


Track Listing

1. Something About You (4:24)
2. World Machine (5:16)
3. Physical Presence (5:27)
4. Leaving Me Now (5:00)
5. Hot Water (3:37)
6. It's Not The Same For Us (4:37)
7. Good Man In A Storm (4:35)
8. The Chant Has Begun (5:14)
9. Lying Still (5:39)

Some people I know, of which my parents and a number of friends would consitute, have told me that music is something you either listen to, or its something you dance to. That an artist has to choose between success or creativity and can never really have both. That "good" pop music has to consist of pre-recorded beats in studio, samples from better songs, with pimped-up vocal emphasis run through synthesizers and autotune. And, at-least up until high school, I took those assertions as facts and didn't think much of it, even though I wasn't much of a fan of Michael Jackson, Spears or pop in general in the first place. Because I had never heard a pop album whose purpose went beyond merely being catchy or making money, my preconception was that the last 40 years of pop music was simply a reflection of the idiotic consumer culture around me and that there was no such thing as a "good" (by my standards) pop record.

World Machine, Level 42's 6th studio release from 1985 and a crossover hit at the time, turned that entire mindset around within twenty minutes. Compare that to Wolves in the Throne Room's Two Hunters, which turned me onto black metal in an hour, and you have a record that still hasn't been broken.

Level 42, as I found out after giving this album a few spins and reading up some on their history, didn't conform to any of the above "criteria" for success. Unlike many up-and-coming pop acts, they all handled their own instruments (quite effectively I might add), wrote their own songs, and yet were still managed it hit it big with this watershed 1985 release without sacrificing the distinctive bass-oriented sound (Mark King for the win) from their formative jazz-fusion debut and second albums. Unlike many of their American and English contemporaries though, these guys were driven to make their talent something the masses could take a bite of, and this is the result, for better or for worse (depending your interpretation of selling-out, it could be either one).

Anyway, review time: World Machine, like many albums with some conceptual thought behind them, has a few running themes throughout its throbbing, pulsating 44-minute run. As the disillusioned title track (my personal favorite) questions throughout its rediculously heavy and catchy groove: When a person integrates themselves into popular culture, is that person really a distinct individual anymore now that he's part of the great 'world machine'? Furthermore, why is the procreation of life itself (see track quote below) even important in a society where one face is easily exchanged for another?

Not too bad for a song intended to push sales, and its bittersweet stuff like this which makes you glad you bothered to listen to the song in the first place. You like the beat, but your brain is still running in the process. Good.

The rest of the songs aren't quite as sharp as the title track unfortunately, but instrumentally its satisfying enough and lyrically the rest of the material is pretty sound too, so what more could you want? In brief summation of the rest of the album, there's the Top 40 hit 'Something About You' which laments over mistakes when it comes to love in a rather poetic way. 'Big Man in A Storm' questions our roles in society and how they can drive us nuts, 'A Physical Presence" deals with rejection and lingering feelings, and so on and so forth. Nothing groundbreaking, but there are some nice touches here and there which hearken back to the days when jazz-fusion and prog. rock were things to be enjoyed in public instead of locked in your dad's old basement collection.

So overall, I'd say this is a good album for anyone who wants to hear what happens when a jazz-funk-fusion band goes Pop. Its tasteful, high-wired, interesting and doesn't feel outdated like the majority of 80's music. And unlike what you hear on the radio and T.V. today, this stuff's got enough heart & soul to be appreciated long after the name "Backstreet Boys" becomes slang for you know what.

All that said, that's the end of this review. I don't need to post videos for a band who have a couple hundred vids on YouTube either, so go hear them for yourselves. Happy hunting!!

Now where'd I put that new obscure album I downloaded yesterday....

Album Verdict: 4.6/7
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Old 02-11-2009, 08:32 AM   #22 (permalink)
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Good album, their earlier work was less poppy but still more club-oriented...
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Old 02-11-2009, 08:58 AM   #23 (permalink)
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Yeah, I haven't listened to World Machine, but I do know their debut which is roughly described also a slightly jazzed up 80s pop. I'll check this one out!
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Old 02-11-2009, 09:15 AM   #24 (permalink)
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I admire the balls in writing a level 42 review amidst Prog curios. I think they are bloody awful but plenty of respect to ya!
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Old 02-11-2009, 11:00 AM   #25 (permalink)
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I'd be the same as Jackhammer --- I grew up with the likes of Level 42 on TOTP and bloody hated them. Found them boring, indulgent and ultimately depressing --- but then, that's just me!
Did like their two ballad singles though...
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Old 02-11-2009, 03:29 PM   #26 (permalink)
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Ant, that was really cool! Any chance of a PM?
Just one point: the vocals seemed really down low in the mix --- was that just the video, or is the production really that bad?
Either way, an up would be very much appreciated!
Thx
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QUOTE=Anteater;591810]Glad everyone who I've PMed Dracula's Music Cabinet to is enjoying it thusfar. Odd music ain't it, hahahaha!

Now then, today's review is a bit different from the last couple. The album is recent and not particularly obscure, but I would say it's a curious piece and thus interesting enough to be worth a review. Plus, I have a few comments to make about all this contemporary "new prog" which seems to be at the forefront of most prog. scenes today...

Moon Safari - Blomljud (2008)


Track Listing

1. Constant Bloom (1:26)
2. Methuselah's Children (15:42)
3. In the Countryside (5:42)
4. Moonwalk (8:48)
5. Bluebells (10:11)
6. The Ghost of Flowers Past (9:47)
7. Yasgur's Farm (8:05)
8. Lady of the Woodlands (3:36)
9. A Tale of Three and Tree (3:28)
10. Other Half of the Sky (31:42)
11. To Sail Beyond the Sunset (5:18)

If any of you went to ProgArchives.com right now and started looking through the "Best" lists of 2007 and 2008, you would notice that there's a particularly annoying trend beginning to rear its ugly head, a phenomena which has seemingly been getting worse since the dawn of the new millenia: more than 60% of the highest rated releases are ALL symphonic progressive rock albums by bands/artists like The Flower Kings, Karmakanic, Spock's Beard, Knight Area, Galahad, Pendragon, Glass Hammer, etc. Big "WTF" moment for me at the time, but only recently did it hit me: the prog. revival which began revving up in the mid 90's...has hit a ceiling. Accessibility has become favored over compisition, and the ELP-style pretension which you see in bands like Dream Theater and in the majority of "prog. metal" had fully sunk its insidious claws into Neo-Prog. Eeeeeek!

Now, as a fan of Yes and Genesis, I don't have anything against Symphonic Progressive Rock personally. Harmony and I get along quite well together usually, and there's plenty of that to be found in Neo/Symphonic Prog. for some thirty odd years now. The thing is though, I've gone through my fair share of all these different "Third Wave" groups' discographies, yet I'm scared at just how indistinctive these bands are from one another in terms of approach/style/thematics over the last seven years or so. Every vocalist is trying to be Jon Anderson, Peter Gabriel or Steve Wilson. The instrumentation is consistantly good for the most part, but there's nothing there I haven't heard before or its all muddled in Nu-Metal/Alternative excremental influences which we all started hearing with Porcupine Tree on Deadwing but has now seeped in to everyone else's sound (with maybe Frost* being the only exception, but they're a studio project anyway). And The Flower Kings...screw em': they're just an overly prolific, boring and lyrically simplistic grandchild of Yes. You just need one album by them and you don't need anything else from them.

So what's left at the end for those who were looking for good modern prog.? Nothing: you lose hope that you'll find anything different and move on to bigger and better things.

Yet every once in awhile, something is different. You hear a band like Moon Safari and your faith and curiosity are renewed in the entire genre. Someone has opened a window and lets new wind blow the staleness out, and now you have a reason to be excited again!

So, on the album review: Blomljud is this Swedish outfit's sophomore album, an elaboration/maturation of sorts from 2005's A Doorway to Summer, which was nice but nothing special. Back then, I simply would have written Moon Safari as The Flower Kings' forgettable second cousin and moved onto something more interesting. But three years is a long time. More than enough time, actually, for a group who wants to elevate themselves above their competition to actually reach that goal. The result of that growth is this record, and its one of the best I've heard within the Symphonic genre a lonnnnnng time.

Aside from the rather refreshing emphasis on the folk side of prog. which so many other bands seem to have thrown away, what stood out for me the most were the vocals when I first picked up the album. When multi-instrumentalists Simon Akesson and Petter Sandstrom share the mike and stage together, it felt like someone had cloned The Beach Boys and gave them richer voices to sing their hearts out with. Rarely do vocals stand out in progressive rock of any kind, but for once I can give everyone my assurances that Moon Safari is TOP-NOTCH on this front, and it was a pleasant surprise for me.

The second thing that will strike you, if you pay attention, are the simple YET intelligently arranged lyrical/musical themes (a weak point in most modern day progressive rock) that emerge often enough to give this album a measure of enjoyabe consistency. Because along with commentary on man's relationship with technology (In the Countryside), nostalgia of a simpler past (Yasgur's Farm, Constant Bloom), the music itself is warm as summer and unusually memorable to me considering all that I've heard. Tracks like the instrumental 'Moonwalk' can be almost hallucinatory when you close your eyes and lay out in a quiet place for Pate's sake! And I can't forget the stand-out 'Other Half of the Sky', which is 30 minutes of the sort of pastoral harmony that only comes around once in a thousand CDs.

So yeah, Symphonic Prog. did not die with Yes or the Canterbury bands like the purists would have you think. The spirit still lives on in bands like Moon Safari, who bring ingenuity and inventiveness but still giving us a poignant glimpse into a glorious time in music when masterpieces like Close to the Edge and In The Land of the Grey and Pink were at the forefront of the minds and hearts of listeners, lifting souls up and giving people the sort of joy that makes them want to go on living.

Maybe other groups will see the light and pick up a few pointers from this modern-day masterpiece. We have enough Porcupine Trees out there to make a forest after all, lol!!

Album Verdict: 10/10

The vid. below is Yasgur's Farm, one of the best tracks on the album. It's harder than some of the other tracks, but its definitely a highlight. If you like it, tell me and I'll PM this album to you!!

[/QUOTE]
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Old 02-11-2009, 04:30 PM   #27 (permalink)
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By the way, Blomljud is cool .. I checked'em out briefly and liked what I heard, despite them being .. you know. Swedes.
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Old 02-12-2009, 11:30 PM   #28 (permalink)
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anteater i love this thread. I'm gonna look up some of these albums tomorrow. So good to see some love for Level 42 on here, is there much point in me straying beyond the super-pop confines of the 2-disc Best Of you think?
Also I just managed to get a copy of the SBB album. What's the deal are these records only available as vinyl rips?

Two artists you should cover if you are into them and check out if you are not: Ramases and (early) Split Enz

molly x
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Old 02-14-2009, 04:31 PM   #29 (permalink)
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Thanks everyone, glad to see the thread is being followed by a fair audience. I'll check those two out definitely Molecules.

With this next review, we're going back to prog. territory...with a metal touch.


Pain of Salvation - Remedy Lane (2002)


Track Listing

1. Beginnings (2:26)
2. Ending Theme (4:59)
3. Fandango (5:51)
4. A Trace Of Blood (8:17)
5. This Heart Of Mine (4:01)
6. Undertow (4:47)
7. Rope Ends (7:02)
8. Chain Sling (3:58)
9. Dryad Of The Woods (4:55)
10. Remedy Lane (2:17)
11. Waking Every God (5:29)
12. Second Love (4:21)
13. Beyond The Pale (9:56)

Let me get my fanboyism out of the way before I start this review: Pain of Salvation is the ****ing bomb! Daniel Gildenlow is one of the more creative vocalists to emerge in ANY genre over the last two decades, and his guitar playing isn't plagued by the riff-wankery which you hear in every other goddamn "progressive" metal band like Dream Theater, Shadow Gallery, Redemption, Kamelot, etc. And yes, I hate most prog. metal with a passion. I despise the nearly exclusive emphasis on riffing and technical playing over the ability to compose and perform INTERESTING music which doesn't sound like somebody else. I hate talentless hacks like Jamie LaBrie and Michael Eriksen who crack on high notes and are otherwise impossible to decipher through their gibberish. And the fans of these bands who claim they're the God of Metal's ****ing gift to man....christ!!

Well, all that aside, Pain of Salvation have been among my favorite metal-influenced bands for several years now, and this particular album is my favorite of theirs because, honestly, it comes together better as a whole than any metal album I've had the pleasure of listening to, and hence stands out even amidst PoS's exceptional discography. The guitar, drums, base and keyboards all fall into place as expected, but the real strength here is the arrangement of these things in a way that feels distinct and fresh to ears jaded by the antics of bands both adventurous and boring.

Whether its the opening guitar movement on 'A Trace of Blood' (my favorite on the album; a song dealing with a miscarriage of all things!), the almost danceable keyboard waltzing on 'Fandango', that Bends-era Radiohead melancholy which pervades 'Second Love'...there is genuine sincerity here. And not just sincerity, but strength in the songs and sentiments alike: Daniel croons and cries and gutterally screams about a man's search for love and freedom in his lifetime, which is Remedy Lane's central thematic axis, and I find stuff like that rather easy to relate to.

In conclusion, I have only this to say: A prog. metal album in this day and age of this measure is, unfortunately, difficult to come by. Too many have forgotten what it means to create something that is more than serviceable, folks who switch time signatures and play dissonantly for the sake of nothing. Hence I recommend Pain of Salvation's Remedy Lane without reservations. Go get this album NOW!

...and here's a Trace of Blood for everyone to preview:



Album Verdict: 5.6/7
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Old 02-15-2009, 01:35 AM   #30 (permalink)
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Missed this thread completely so far. Send Dracula's Music Cabinet this way too! The curiosity is killing me. I've been meaning to check out Moon Safari as well.

And nice reviews of The Residents and Pain of Salvation. Daniel Gildenlow's main influence is, I'm guessing, Faith No More/Mike Patton. If you've noticed, Entropia has some similarities with a lot of FNM's output. Not to forget, the vocals have similarities as well. But I'd agree ---- he's definitely one of the best modern day vocalist. Many would call them 'pretentious' but I think this man speaks his heart...even if he used to hate America .
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