Wednesday, May 07, 2008

my CD reviews in Junk magazine (part 1)

With everyone competing to be THE tastemaker in this huge blogosphere, here's my own little attempt at pointing the way to great music, or warning people to tread with caution on some albums. So if you have a CD you think I might review favourably (just check out all the reviews I've written here to see the kind of stuff I might appreciate), do get in touch, 'cause I love freebies... hehehe. All the reviews here have been previously published in various issues of Junk magazine from last year to this year:

Nada Melankolik Malaya
(Clockwork Records)

Promises are not easy to keep. When most of us first heard OAG’s Satelit Ink album, I’m sure most had really high hopes for the kind of brilliance that might come next. But then all of a sudden, that OAG line-up splintered into 2, leaving Radhi alone to soldier on as OAG, and with Naza & Alim forming The Times.

Suddenly we’re left with the possibility that the promise might not be fulfilled after all. And after both The Times’ debut album and OAG’s new one, it does seem that such a bleak proposition, after so much wonderful promise, might turn out to be true after all.

Sometimes the best things come when you least expect them to. Take this second album by The Times for example. It must’ve been real easy to dismiss them after what was at best a patchy debut album.

But real artists strive to improve, and long to create something worthwhile that will touch other people’s lives. And artists The Times have proven themselves to be with this album. To give you an idea, if your favourite songs from Satelit Ink include “Konspirasi Bising Internasional” and “Venusia”, then you NEED to have this album in your life, because it’s full of tunes of that quality.

Not only did they bother to fill the album with all these sweet, mid-tempo melancholic pop-rockers like “Wilayah Strawberi Selamanya” and “Konspirasi Primadona 1965”, they even had the balls to give us what is, for my money, one of the greatest love songs I’ve ever encountered by a Malaysian act, an achingly beautiful little song called “Infra Merah”, with a gorgeous vocal performance by Naza that I guarantee will melt even the coldest of hearts.

And “beautiful” is a very apt word to describe this album, which is a huge surprise if you think about their supposedly rock n roll reputation. But credit where credit’s due. This IS a beautiful album, unexpectedly so, maybe, but beautiful all the same. I’m just happy that somebody kept their promise. And in doing so, have also signalled, that The Times have finally arrived.

**** stars

Alpacas Orgling
(Cheap Lullaby Records)

I’m a pop geek. Add to that the fact that this CD is one of the most hyped and highly anticipated releases in the pop underground, coupled with the band’s impeccable pedigree in having people like Mike Viola and Andy Sturmer involved, consider me sold!

However, as great as most of the tunes are in here, I can’t praise this too much, considering the high ambitions of this project - a tribute to the style & spirit of Electric Light Orchestra (“ELO”).

Taken out of the ELO context, all the songs here are wonderful, but when you bring ELO into the picture, only a few can hold up like “Ya Had Me Going” and “Make Me”. The financial constraints of an indie project surely made it impossible to reproduce the ridiculous but magical bombast of all the classic 70’s ELO recordings.

And that’s exactly what’s missing here.

*** stars

Never Hear The End Of It
(Murderecords/Yep Roc Records)

This might be a strange way to recommend an album, but if you find yourself not so impressed with this album upon the first quick listen (i.e. skipping tracks), I urge you to actually sit down and listen to this CD the whole way through.

That’s exactly how I unlocked the mysteries of this latest album by Canada’s power pop heroes, Sloan. I went in looking for the usual quick fix of great “singles” and a few above average fillers, but found something else instead, an old fashioned, Abbey Road style “album”.

Not that this sounds like Abbey Road, but more in the same spirit, in which the sum is greater than its parts. Yes, songs like “Set In Motion” sound like a monster hit in waiting, but the real beauty & genius here is how the album gently works its way into your soul. God bless you, Sloan.

**** stars

(Big3 Records)

Old rockers soldiering on can sometimes be an embarrassing sight, they say. And I’m sure it’s safe to call the Cheap Trick dudes old too. But embarrassing they surely aren’t.

This new album by them is probably the freshest non-70’s Cheap Trick album I’ve heard in a long time. It’s amazing how young everyone in the band sounds. The songs, oh my God, almost all of them have a vitality, freshness and excitement as if they’re written for a first album, not what you’d expect from an album 30 years down the line!

It’s depressing, however, to think about how this fantastic album will be ignored by the younger crowd, simply because of how unhip it is to listen to Cheap Trick now. But this is a great record, that very rare combination of melody and power. So please, don’t let yourself make that mistake. Get it now!

**** stars

Visible Idea of Perfection
(FFWD Records)

Let me put the record straight now. The S.I.G.I.T is a great rock n roll band. Songwriting-wise, they can easily kick Wolfmother’s behinds anytime. And they’re also reputedly kickass live performers.

However, I have a bit of a problem with this album. It’s full of solid, and sometimes great bluesy rock n roll tunes, in the vein of Led Zeppelin and the aforementioned Wolfmother (if you want a recent reference).

It’s no coincidence that people associate rock n roll with dirt, filth, sweat, rawness and the like, as it’s that primitive instinct that makes rock n roll so special and durable. Make no mistake, The S.I.G.I.T is rock n roll, but this album isn’t. It’s just too well produced, and sounds tame next to the primal sounds of their earlier demos & cassette only EP. I really wanted to love this album, but I love dirt more, I guess.

*** stars

1 comment:

mas.ainun said...

owh! i love Nada Melankolik Malaya as well! You're right on about Infra Merah, dripping with emotions, i must say of the song!..achingly beautiful little love song, as u might say! I can't agree with you more! ..and about Wilayah Strawberi Selamanya, I just can't help a little jump of cheerfulness in my heart when I hear it. Ok ok it's not exactly about happiness, but melody is so happy happy happy!