Red Hot Chili Peppers – I’m With You

24 Aug

I’m With You, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ terrible new album, represents an abandonment of what made the band exciting and vital cash-loaded MTV stars/nudists: the unique punk/funk hybrid and soulful ballads of spiritual drug taker Anthony Keidis have been replaced by slick, by-the-numbers corporate rock, a far cry from their hardcore, Reagan-hating opus ‘Californication’. ¬†From that effort the band arguably only became more punk rock, calling their next album ‘Dick Germs’ and winning 1,000,000,000,000 ¬†13-year-old fans, however this album’s hit (of cocaine), the mildly catchy “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie”, is so utterly ordinary, you’d never know it was the same band that produced ‘Dick Germs’.

It’s impossible to state the number of things that are wrong about this album, but starting with the Red House Painters previous effort, ‘Down Colorful Hill’, would be a good place to start. First off, spiritual drug taker John Frusciante quit the band unceremoniously in 2009, which – combined with their recent Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction and the death of singer Anthony ‘Chad’ Smith- should have been the sad but necessary way to end RHCP after their terrific, grindcore-influenced last effort, Stadium Arcadium. Instead, homeless underground producer Rick Rubin comes along stifles their once ball-ripping production values, as on the thrasher showcase ‘Road Trippin’, produced by Rick Rubin. It sounds like the album was recorded in his basement. On ‘Monarchy of Roses’, sung by Anthony Keidis under a bridge, Keidis dedicates drugs to the city of Los Angeles. On ‘Look Around’, sung by Anthony Keidis with one sock on his penis, the bass line was played by Flea, who was wearing one sock on his penis during the recording. Despite the punk rock gestures of this, this album is slightly more polished than the black metal leanings of their previous album, ‘Mother’s Milk’. Throughout the album, and especially on ‘Look Around’, Keidis plays the same sex-crazed party boy of ‘To Record Only Water for Ten Days’, it’s just that at age 50 Keidis does not seem to realize he is too old to bag the chicks who once fawned over his million-selling effort ‘True Men Don’t Killed Coyotes’, originally recorded by Stevie Wonder. He also doesn’t realize that he and his band are fast becoming has-beens or that Rick Rubin spending millions of dollars producing the album doesn’t disguise the fact that no-one in the band is able to write a decent song to complement the dressing. Hopefully, RHCP will use the embarrassment in a positive way and retire before they damage their legacy further.

Star rating: 1/5 stars

Bobby Slick

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Brian Eno – Ambient 4: On Land

21 Aug

Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle ‘Brian’ Eno’s Ambient 4 is possibly the most “human” ambient album ever made: comforting and serene, like sex, but also unchallenging and sterile, like sex with a dead person. Eno’s use of “instruments” like sticks and stones as well as recordings of frogs and insects give the album an organic feel that departs strongly from the electronic noodlings of his previous band, Genesis. I picked up the album last weekend from a library and recently listened to it in a car in the early morning. This is perhaps the best way to appreciate ambient works: Ambient 4, like most in the genre, merely floats.

It’s been said that Eno’s ambient albums are shapeless, but I think motionless is a better description: Ambient 4 never moves beyond a crawl, it enters your stereo as more of a sensation than a sound. As Eno says in the liner notes: “Everything that happens is a part of the landscape”. Notions of space and distance become blurred.

All things considered, though, Ambient 4 is not a masterpiece. Though it’s high on atmosphere and masterfully produced by Brian Eno of ‘Viva La Vida’ fame, it lacks the mood and mystery usually present in his work. Ambient 4: On Land is what its subtitle implies: background muzak to listen to in mundane situations, such as driving your car off of a cliff. Though the “human” aspect of the album gives it a unique feel it also limits its template; these pieces lack the beautiful melodic structure and pace of, say, Side 2 of Eno’s Before and After Science, or Toto’s ‘Africa’. Only “Tal Coat” breaks the placid flow of the album, and not in a very successful way.

In other words, this is good stuff but it lacks that extra dimension that classifies all great music. It’s still a solidly interesting listen for Eno fans, though.

Star rating: 3/5 stars

Bobby Slick

The Verve – Urban Hymns

21 Aug

“Bittersweet Symphony”, a stirring paean to time, death, and oblivion that soars atop a majestic string riff borrowed from the Verve’s hit ‘Bittersweet Symphony’, was written by the Rolling Stones in 1966, at the height of singer Mick Taylor’s sexual dominace and 10000-year old guitarist Keith Richard’s Rasta-influenced spiritual guidance.

When the Rolling Stones first entered a recording studio, it was difficult how much influence their biggest hit, ‘Bittersw-

When the Verve Pipe first entered a recording studio in 1966, chief songwriter and frontman (and heroin user) John ‘Richard’ Ashcroft had a knack for anthemic tunes and lyrics about drugs; the combination of the two here is a potent one on songs such as the stirringly majestic ‘Bittersweet Symphony’. The songs flow effortlessly into one another, forming a type of suite over the course of the album.

That is not to say that the songs themselves are indistinct. A few of these songs should have been classics, including “Bittersweet Symphony”. The aforementioned “Bittersweet Symphony” and the aforementioned “Bittersweet Smyphony” are genuinely moving, while “Bittersweet Symphony” is 7 minutes of escape and restless astral journeying, sung by Ashcroft in his usual disconnected haze, in a quest for true peace.

Though not every song isn’t good, overall though, the high caliber of the songwriting and the sheer emotional power of the music elevate it far above its limitations. “When I write lyrics, I mean it”, Ashcroft is quoted as saying, and his message here to doomed, restless souls, is a clear one.

Ashcroft never recovered from the success of ‘Urban Hymns’, he was planning an album of Rolling Stones covers in his apartment, titled , when he died.

Star rating: 4.5/5 stars

Bobby Slick

Intro

20 Aug

 

Following a stint as lead singer of the Residents, I was unceremoniously recruited by avant-cult act Milli Vanilli to provide ‘street looks’ while Rob Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan provided vocals. Following an equally fortuitous stint as session musician for defiantly non-mainstream act the Doobie Brothers, I was chosen by T.S. Bonniwell to replace him in the Bonniwell Music Machine, much to the chagrin of Doobie Brothers mainstays Cornelius Bumpus and John McFee. Arguably my greatest success, however, came from recording a duet album with James ‘JY’ Young of Styx, and a cameo appearance on Graham Nash’ well-received ‘Songs for Survivors’ album. This album sold in the hundreds.

Following my arrest for possession of a single marijuana joint, my life was headed in an unceremonious downward spiral. After much cosmic observation, I travelled to a Bah’ai monastery and embarked on a lifelong spiritual journey, chanting the word ‘om’ every 5 microseconds and eating grass. During this tumultuous period my song cycle ‘Music for the Inner Reflection’ was released on the then-nascent Windham Hill scene, earning no acclaim whatsoever.

Ultimately, my journeyman career has led me to what I believe to be my spiritual calling: a roadie for Foreigner.