Audio Lore

A Positive Music Blog

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ceremony - ZOO :One Bloggers Opinion

The California band Ceremony has been one of my favorite newer bands since I first stumbled upon their cover Red C’s “Pressures On” (one of my all-time favorite punk songs) off of their 2006 brutal debut album Violence Violence. From then on I have watched the bands progress over two more albums plus a few eps and a covers collection, even catching them live a few times they came through town.

When I heard the band signed to Matador Records I was pretty psyched. Even though Ceremony’s previous label Bridge 9 Records was a strong force in the industry I always thought being on a hardcore record label would hold back the possibilities of what this band could be come. The 2010 album Rohnert Park already showed serious signs of Ceremony expanding on the hardcore battery of their two previous records, showing the influences of post-punk groups like The Fall, Joy Division, (early) Cure or Wire. Plus a much larger label like Matador will allow Ceremony exposure too many listeners way outside fans of hardcore music.

The new album, the John Goodmanson produced Zoo is set to be released on next week. Luckily I was able to track down advance copy so I can tell you my opinions about the album which will be annoying my neighbors for weeks to come.

The first track “Hysteria” (actually releases as a single in January) blasts off with a few monster guitar riffs and thundering drum roll, letting you knows the band is back. Then the beat gets steady and Ross Farrar’s biting vocals come in. With its great chorus and gang “oohoohooh”s towards the end it's definitely a great way to get the ball rolling, especially when it is followed by Track 2 “Citizen” with Ross’s manic vocals over the twin guitar attack.

On Track 3 “Repeating the Circle” the tempo gets slowed down a little and you can hear the band's Joy Division influence come out.

When track 4 (the next single) “World Blue” comes on it definitely becomes apparent that the guitars on Zoo are looser then on past albums. Also producer Goodmanson, who in the past has worked with some of my favorites (ie:Sleater-Kinney, Team Dresch, The Treepeople) seems to have toned the bass down a bit. This allows the songs to be more varied sounding and not just pummeling like the pre Rohnert Park albums.

Track 5 “Quarantine” has a little bit of a swagger going on reminiscent of The Cure’s “Meathook” but a lot more upbeat.The song actually has me dancing down the street, in my living room or wherever I am when the song comes over my headphones.

On Ceremony’s cover collection ep of some of the bands biggest influences, one of the songs done was “Pink Flag” by Wire.  You can definitely here an (early) Wire influence shining through the guitars ands vocals of Track 6 "Brace Yourself".

After another rager, Track 8 “Hotel” slows it down with some Jesus Lizard style guitar and vocals. When it returns on track 10 “Nosebleed”, its make me wonder if Steve Albini would have been a better fit as producer over Goodmanson.

Track 11 “Community” gets upbeat in the same vein as “Quarantine” but instead the swagger is replaced with a bounce. Like track 5, this one always has me dancing and my head bopping during  the morning subway ride to work,

The Joy Division influenced (Ceremony after all is named after one of their songs) comes out again for the albums closing track “Video”. The slower, very bass heavy song with its early Pixies style surf guitar is the perfect closer for the album.

The only downside to the record is on almost every song Ross Farrar's vocals have a bullhorn effect going on. I'm not sure whether this was the band's intention or the result of Goodmanson's production job, either way the the effect would have a little more appeal if it was used on maybe just a few of the songs and not of all 12 Tracks.

Zoo definitely proves to be a great progression for Ceremony. There are some explosive raging tracks showing Ceremony does not wish to totally abandon their hardcore background but also a few toned down songs  and a few post punk sounding songs too.

Judging by insane crowd reaction at the sold out show at Le Poisson Rouge (seen in the video below) a few weeks back, Ceremony has already built a larger fan base since the much smaller show at The Cake Shop last year. When Matador Records unleashes Zoo on to the world next week there will be no end to how out of control it will grow.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Dinosaur Jr's BUG album "In It's Entirety"

Last year Dinosaur Jr did a tour where they were exclusively playing their 3rd album Bug "In it's entirety". Although Bug is up there with some of my favorite albums, "In It's Entirety" shows are not my favorite so I skipped the New York City show.

When the show came to Washington DC's 9:30 club they had a few of their biggest fans film the show. In a few months the footage they shot will be released as a DVD and Blu Ray. The Official Dinosaur Jr Facebook page is now holding a contest to win a copy of the soon to be releases Dinosaur Jr:Live At the 9:30 Club "In The Hands Of The Fans" Blu Ray. One of the things you can do to win a copy is to write your opinions on the album in your blog and what it means to you. Then post a link to your blog on the wall of the Official Dinosaur Jr Facebook page and a few random fans will receive their very own copies. Even though I really do not want a copy of the Blu Ray , just like when The Cure came through with their first 3 albums "In Their Entirety" , it was an excuse to write out what this Dinosaur Jr album has meant to me these past  20+ years.

The album released prior to Bug, Dinosaur Jr's second album You're Living All Over Me is definitely in my Top 5 favorite albums. Out of the 3000+ CDs in my collection You're Living All Over Me is the one I have listened to more than any of the others. A lot of times it is even listened to twice in a row. Every time I give it a listen the album leaves me just as amazed as when I bought the album in 1988. The album is pure out of control and far above what any other band has every done. Every song is chock full of guitar fuzz, layered riffs, thunderous drumming, loads of hooks over nine perfectly ordered songs. Since I have the original SST Records disc I get the added bonus of Dinosaur Jr's great cover of Peter Frampton's classic "Show Me The Way". To think I bought the album just because they were on SST and would probably sound like Black Flag.

The album kicks off "Freak Scene", the song that would be considered the "Hit". Although there are still the blaring J Mascis guitars a little bit of the Your Living All Over Me fuzz has been stripped off. The song also shows a bit of structure. One of the great things about the previous album was the songs had no structure. They were all over the place and still worked. Just when you think "Freak Scene" is bordering on being a  pop song a great Mascis guitar solo comes in and continues to wail away for the last minute of the song.

Track 3 "They Always Come" begins heavy and bouncy, maybe even a little choppy; but at about 30 seconds a smooth chorus comes in and the song really takes off. It almost sounds as if it is two different songs. When hearing the track I always wonder if maybe the band was split on what direction they wanted the song to take. With neither J or bassist Lou Barlow willing to budge, they just decided to do both, drummer Murph just happy to be banging along. The switch happens again before the second chorus explodes into crashing waves of guitars lasting a minute before being laid to a rest with Lou's bass guitar.

For Track 4 "Yeah We Know" the volume on the fuzz pedal is turned up. One of the things I have always loved is the way you can really hear Murph's drums through all the fuzz. While in Dinosaur Jr, drummer Murph was known for hitting the drums harder than most. This song is definitely great proof of that, especially the thud after each of J's verses.

On Track 5, "Let it Ride", finally a song on this album takes off like all those great songs on You're Living All Over Me. All these members playing their instruments with complete abandon. Lou's pounding bass in songs like this is something that would be greatly missed on all future Dinosaur Jr albums.

Many times people have written that J Macis and Dinosaur Jr sound like Neil Young and Crazy Horse. Honestly I just never heard it. Even on the  indie Neil Young Tribute album, Dinosaur Jr (who does "Lotta Love") really has no resemblance to  Neil. Bug's track 6 "Pond Song" may be the only exception. On the song J's vocals definitely sound a little Neil Youngish. Although the song is probably one of the most melodic Dinosaur Jr songs up to this point, even Crazy Horse didn't turn the volume up this loud as this band.

On Track 7 "Budge" The band once again takes off in the vein of the smooth parts of "They Always Come". Murph can once again be heard pummeling his kit
Track 8 "The Post" gets  a little dirgey. Although J's guitar is always there and shines through the chorus, , Lou's bass is what carries the song through the each verse.

Track 9 "Don't" is where the sludge is really poured on. The song is J going all out, wailing on his guitar for five and a half minutes with fuzz pedals and whammy bars all over the place. Murph continues to beat the life out of his drum set while Lou screams over and over again "Why don't you like me". With Lou not talking to J for the whole recording and tour of Bug and being kick out of the band shortly after, I wonder who he could have been talking about in this song.

Overall Bug is a great album. Out of a rating of 10 I would probably give it a 9. My only complaint being the songs don't flow into each other too well, almost as if it was a album of singles. Dinosaur Jr would to this day remain one of my favorite bands but none of their albums would compare to Bug, You're Living All Over Me or their great first album Dinosaur. The line-up of bassist Lou Barlow, drummer Murph and our generations first guitar god J Mascis was just perfect. It was awesome when in 2005 the original line up reunited as still are together today.

With Dinosaur Jr's move to Sire for their next album Green MindBug also marks the last of the great albums on SST records. Black Flag had called it quits a few years earlier, The Descendents had turned into ALL and were now releasing record on Cruz Records, Sonic Youth and Firehose were moving on to DGC and Columbia Records and Husker Du had long moved on to Warner Bros and then broke up. Even the Screaming Trees had jumped ship to Epic Records after a short stop on Sub Pop. SST Records was left with Gone, Hotel-X, Bazooka and many more forgettable bands.

Usually I only put one video but this time there are two. The first is of one of the normal tracks in Bug and the second is the last track where bassist Lou loses it a little on  "Don't"

Friday, February 10, 2012

Out Of The Vaults #5- Bad Religion - No Control

Each week or so I will ask my wife to dive deep into our CD cabinets (The Vaults) and pull out a random CD. The chosen album will then be given to me and I will  "muse" on the disc for awhile in this blog no matter how good, bad, or embarrassing the chosen disc is. Where did I buy it, how old was I, first reaction to hearing the album, do I still listen to it today and anywhere else my stream of conscious will take me in regards to the "Out Of The Vaults" weekly pick.

Out of the Vaults #5 - Bad Religion - No Control

Bad Religion had a string of 4 unbelievable punk rock albums. Suffer (1988), No Control (1989), the album which brought the then17 year old me to the band Against the Grain (1990) and Generator (1992). Their debut album How Could Hell Be Any Worse (1981) was a good punk record but the band was very young and not quite there yet. I won't even get into the attempted prog rock of Into The Unknown (1983) . Recipe For Hate, the album following the four great ones,  is 50/50. All the bands material after Recipe For Hate, with the exception of a few songs here and there sound forced. The same formula without the same feeling.

Even though those four albums are all great fast punk records , No Control gets a little bit of a boost over the others because it doesnt let up. The first six songs come at you like a high speed freight train. There isn’t a chance to catch your breath until it reaches Track 7 "Sanity". Most Bad Religion album will consist of a few of these slower paced songs but on No Control, "Sanity" is it. At the beginning of Track 11 “Progress", you think you are going to receive another chance to catch your breath but the band is not having it. Twenty seconds into "Progress" the music once again kicks into overdrive and continues straight through the final four songs or the album.

One of the signature traits of Bad Religion, besides their great "Oohs" and "Ahs" is the expansive vocabulary of Cornell University Ph.D. Bad Religion singer Greg Graffin. Beginning with Suffer every Bad Religion album is chock full of very scholarly colorful words. With lyrics like “Culture is the seed of proliferation but it has gotten into a inharmonic whole” (Track 3 “No Control”), “He’s quintessential, mindless, modern, epicene” (Track 5 “Automatic Man”), “Is your fecundity  a trammel or a treasure” (Track 6 “I Want To Conquer The World”), “To insure your likely metamorphosis into this reprobate” (Track 8 “Henchmen”) and “An elements in a sea or enthapic organic compounds”, “A piece or chaos related phylogenetically”( Both in Track 15 “The World Won't Stop”), No Control is no exception. 

Whenever I would pick up a new Bad Religion album from the local record store I would always make sure to stop at the bookstore next door to pick up a pocket dictionary. Too paraphrase the Bruce Springsteen song “No Surrender”, we learned more vocabulary in a two minute Bad Religion song then we ever learned at school.