>Requested Review: "Songs: Ohia" by Songs: Ohia

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Jason Molina And His Owls

Today’s requested review is a bit of a corker, folks. That is because it has been requested by none other than Mr. John Keogh, creator of the famed “digital comic strip” Lucid TV! Wowzers. In case you have not been informed about the current “internetted sequential picture” phenomenon, they are just like the regular comic strips you would find in your daily Funnies newspaper page (“Hi and Lois” and the like), only they are painstakingly pieced together with millions of 1’s and 0’s so they may appear on your computer’s screen. As such, creating them is an arduous, lonely task only taken upon by the bravest and most brilliant minds of our generation. Mr. Keogh has not only managed to create one of these elusive things, he has somehow managed to make some very funny jokes with them as well! No small task.

Seriously, though, he’s a very talented and nice guy and you should read his stuff post-haste if you haven’t already. Unfortunately he has saddled me with the difficult task of reviewing Songs: Ohia’s self-titled 1997 debut – his favorite album. Now, I am perfectly willing to accept any and all requests for reviews, but hey, I don’t wanna break any hearts here! For all I know John could be pinning his entire soul’s emotion on my opinion of this, the record he loves more than all, and if I don’t like it he may regress into a childlike state of unhinged despair, shocking him into pre-natal unconsciousness (yes, yes, that made perfect sense and I am a talented writer). I mean, you never know, right?

But, no. No. I will be honest. I must be honest. Songs: Ohia is one boring piece of indie-folk SHITTT.

Haha. Hah! Wait, no. No. I misspoke. I meant to say “it’s pretty good.”

Now I will admit that, just from my first listen of Songs: Ohia, I could already tell that this type of album was not quite my cup of tea. What we have here is “indie”-folk (I am getting a little tired of that term, hence the superfluous quotations) at its absolute sparest: just singer-songwriter Jason Molina, his acoustic guitar, some soft percussion, and little else. Once in a while, some extra instruments will come in-and-out – a clarinet here, a banjo there, an accordion everywhere – but for the most part, Molina’s musical approach is pretty bare bones. It’s an interesting sound, but one that might become a little tiresome depending on your tastes; many of these songs are dark, foreboding, and deathly slow (especially “Crab Orchard” and “Big Sewell Mt.”), not to mention that Molina’s voice falls into a Jeff Magnum-esque reediness (“reediness,” yes, as if I even knew what that meant). The entire mood of this record is downtrodden, low-key, but not quite mellow; I mean, this isn’t Jack Johnson or any of that silliness. Oh, oh no. There’s a darkness in this record, one that I can’t quite put my finger on. Whatever it is, it makes this album perfectly suited to late-night listening.

Like I said, the super-spare approach on this album might turn some people off. I myself find most of these songs to be a little samey, to the point where I have trouble telling a few of them apart (which is my least favorite listening experience to admit – I feel like a child just saying it, but there it is). Molina’s approach can certainly be hypnotic – and, at times, strangely comforting in its honesty – but it isn’t one that always “hooks” me, so to speak. It is not a record that makes me want to “get down like a clown,” see. Molina sounds so down and out, and the music is so muted at times, that I just lose interest. There are those moments, though, where Songs: Ohia rises above the surface and truly kicks some indie-folk butt. Like the dirgey opening track “Cabwaylingo”, with its spindly banjo and pretty melody. Or the out-of-nowhere Molina-yelp “you have BRACED around your smile!!” at the end of otherwise-quiet “Gauley Bridge” before the song just ends all of the sudden for no real reason. Or there’s my favorite track here, “Our Republic,” which suddenly BURSTS into an accordion-driven SUPERJAM in its last minute, with Molina’s voice rising above some dramatic instrumentation. Also I think there’s a sax solo at the end! Of all things!! (That IS a saxophone, right? I am terrible at recognizing instruments in songs. I should not be reviewing music.) It is a very exciting moment in the middle of an album that is obviously not meant to be exciting.

OK, maybe that was a bit of a dick thing to say. Does the type of acoustic folk found on Songs: Ohia really need to be “exciting”? No, probably not. This is not music that is meant to get you on your feet, you see. This is the type of music you throw on the CD player next to your bed and fall sweetly to sleep to. At least that’s how I hear it! I don’t mean that as an insult – it has a sort of hypnotic, relaxing effect, you see. At times I like music that makes me fall asleep.

Oh, god, I don’t even remember what I’m trying to say here.

Oh hey, have you noticed that I have not even mentioned anything about the lyrics on this album? Not even a little bit? I have listened to this thing about four or five times now, straight through, and I have not even paid attention to them. I don’t remember a single line. God, that’s terrible, isn’t it? I remembered every “suck my royal dick” line in that shitty LMFAO album, but when it comes to an album in which the lyrics are probably pretty good, I draw a blank. Awful! Apparently if lyrics aren’t obnoxiously shoved in my face like an exotic dancer’s behind, they don’t even register. I am a child.

(No, actually, I hate writing about lyrics. I do. I love great lyrics if they’re good and funny and whatnot, but man – I gotta look them up, copy-and-paste them into Blogger, and awkwardly tie them into whatever stupid theme I’m trying to push. Not fun! Also, I shouldn’t be reviewing music.)

So there is the big question: will I ever listen to this record again? Yeah, maybe. I could see myself doing that. Not often, mind you – like I already mentioned, this kind of music is just not for me at the end of the day. I mean, why listen to this when I’ve got the smooth sounds of soulDecision to keep me warm at night?? Right, right. But I do find many aspects of this record compelling – like I said, it’s a good record to put on at 2 in the morning with the lights dimmed – not to mention that there are many many respectable music fans who would enjoy this album much more than I do. Like John Keogh, for example! It’s his favorite album after all.

So overall: it’s pretty good! Worth a listen. Just don’t ask me about the lyrics. Jason Molina is still around nowadays as Magnolia Electric Co., which in my limited experience is a little less heavy on the acoustic folk and a little more “rockin'”, so to speak. Would I be right in assuming this, readers?? Please answer.

And there is your review, Mr. Keogh. I expect that in exchange for this non-committal, borderline dismissive summation of your absolute favorite album of all time, you will commit to updating Lucid TV every single day for the rest of your life while sending me each original print in advance the moment they are finished – via first-class mail – so I receive a healthy dose of “The Funny” before anybody else does. That’s a fair tradeoff, right?

(One small P.S. – I was going to make a joke about how I used the word “spare” way too many times in this review, but upon searching for it I apparently only used it twice! Same goes for “hypnotic” and the phrase “so to speak” – only twice each! Wow!! I must be getting good at this.)

(Oh, P.P.S. – apparently the version of this album I have is “incorrect.” According to Wikipedia none of the song titles I mentioned are actually the real titles of the songs! Just stupid fake ones Jason Molina printed on the album’s sleeve. What a prick! Trying to deceive me like that.

Also, my version is apparently the vinyl version, with “Greenbrier/For You” added and “Hayfoot/UMW Pension” removed. So I guess this review is in no way authoritative. Having not heard “Hayfoot,” I will just go ahead and assume it sounds like most of the other songs on here, but I could be wrong! For all I know it could be a British psych-phase pastiche in the style of the Small Faces’ “Itchycoo Park.” If so, could someone hook a brother up with an mp3??)

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>Requested Review: "Party Rock" by LMFAO

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oh nooooooooo

So yes, the entire point of me taking requests for reviews – at least, in theory – is so I can stretch out a little bit and review music that I would not even consider reviewing on my own. You know, music that exists outside of my “music I already know really well and like a whole lot” sphere. And that’s all well and good, right? If I am going to become a hot-shot music journalist contributing to VH1/Blender’s “MOST AWESOMELY BAD ALBUM COVERS OF ALL TIME” (yes, yes, this is my only goal), I have got to be willing to review a wide range of music! And hey, on paper, this is a very exciting concept – who knows what remarkable, unpredictable musical adventures I will embark on??

Unfortunately, my friend Emily had to go and remind me of what I am really getting myself into. She requested LMFAO’s Party Rock.

Oh, I’m not blaming her. Nothing exemplifies “music I would never ever listen to on my own” better than Party Rock. I mean, do I even have to listen to it? Look at that album cover! And man, it’s co-produced by Will.I.Am and features Lil Jon. For a man like me, them’s some major red flags. Y’know, I am not one of those “I HATE RAP!!” people by any stretch of the imagination, and I absolutely love dance music when it’s real good. But I have never been a crunk man. It’s not even that it’s too sleazy or obnoxious – I mean, it is, but I can take a lot of obnoxious music – but it’s just so dang boring! The beats are all the same slow, thumpy club grinds that just don’t go anywhere and the vocals are often completely unaffected and dull. You’d think really sleazy club grind music would be provocative and attention-grabbing, but you would apparently be wrong.

But I do admit, while I pretty much knew exactly what to expect out of Party Rock, I had some slightly higher hopes for it than usual. This is only because, before I heard the album, I heard “Shots,” the song Lil Jon guests on. And let me tell you – it is a hilarious song. An absolute riot. From the random partygoer shouting “I’M FUCKED UUUUP!” in the intro to Lil Jon’s constant incantations of “All my alcoholics, put your hands in the air!” and “If you ain’t gettin’ drunk, GET THE FUCK OUT THE CLUB!,” to the most stupidly repetitive chorus in the history of… well, music (“SHOTS! SHOTS! SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS! SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS! EVERYBODYY!!“) – there is seriously not a single moment in this song that is not ridiculously hilarious. If you take it as a piece of comedy, there is nothing funnier in this world. So hearing this song, I hoped – to the ends of this green Earth – that the entire 45 minutes of this record would maintain this level of hilarity. You know, it’d be a hilarious crunk parody full of ridiculously over-the-top lines and goofy beats. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

So I sat down and tried to listen to the album all the way though. And yeah, it made me sad, ’cause the rest of the record isn’t nearly as funny. Honestly, people, I would have reviewed this album a lot sooner – Emily requested it almost immediately after I asked for requests, after all, and she got me a copy of it like the day after – but man, I just have not been able to listen all the way through it without getting painfully bored. I just – I crave other music when I listen to this album. It’s just not very exciting!

Well, OK. I’m not being fair. There are several other moments on this record that certainly match the hilarity of “Shots”. But, you know, it’s only a few lines here and there scattered throughout a bunch of boring electro-pop party jams. Only one full song matches “Shots,” and that would be the hilariously titled “I Am Not A Whore.” See, the premise of the song is that the main LMFAO dude actually wants to get to know women, but he can’t because they all just want to have sex with him – a premise that is especially hilarious after song after song of explicitly dirty “flash your titties” exhortations. But it’s the lyrics that make it: “Most girls I meet are quite savage /Always tryna’ grab up on my package / The say I look yummy and they want a taste / But I’m a human not a sandwich.” I can’t even – I can’t even make this up.

Other funny little bits: a goofy low-voice ordering women to flash their titties “even in church” in “Get Crazy”; the line “If I gotta girl on my arm, don’t say SHIIIT!” near the end of “What Happens At The Party,” featuring a very funny distorted vocal slow-down effect; the line “I got a girlfriend, but what’s the use?” from I forget the exact song (I don’t feel like listening through them again, you see). But besides the occasional line, this is not a very funny album – songs like “La La La” and “I Don’t Wanna Be” are so straight-faced and unfunny that they just become the generic club jams they otherwise seem to be parodying. Not to mention that “I’m In Miami Bitch,” the first single from the album, is actually pretty boring. Why “Shots” isn’t the single, I have absolutely no idea.

There is one “unfunny” song I like – “Lil Hipster Girl,” despite its annoying throwaway lyrics, has a pretty appealing electro-pop groove (and the opening lines “Talk shit, grab my dick / walk right in, banana split” certainly don’t hurt). But that is probably the extent of it. Listen – I will not deny that, in small doses, certain tracks on this album are amazingly entertaining. I just can’t take 45 full minutes of it, I guess! My mind is just not wired in this way. Not to mention that, considering that this is a dance pop album in 2009, there is more Autotune on this thing than you can shake a stick at, and I cannot stand Autotune if it’s not exploited for comedic effect.

So my verdict: it’s not a horrible piece of shit! Just a lot more boring than I’d hoped. Download “Shots” and maybe “I Am Not A Whore” and enjoy. You don’t need any of the rest.

And see, I can make no excuses about not liking the album because I have nobody to please here! Emily suggested I review it because she knew it was bad and thought it would be funny. Most other requests I’ve gotten aren’t nearly as ridiculous as this one, so you all have nothing to worry about my friends! No more “gee whiz I just don’t like crunk!!” reviews.

But just for fun, since I feel like padding this boring review a little more please enjoy some Youtube comments for this LMFAO video:

chronicman102 (1 week ago)
“drunk

AS fuckkk”

janelyraylo (2 days ago)
“this song is tiizzzziiiggghhhtt wahaha j/k it’s pretty legit = )
shots!
shots!
shots!
shots!
shots! everybodayy!!!”

MickQuick07 (2 weeks ago)
“why is the educational system struggling in america? cuz kids are striving to be this lol. but it’s pretty catchy. SHOTS :|”

kazimare (2 weeks ago)
“I feel as if my intelligence has drastically increased after listening to this song. I love artistic expression.”

sugarfree133 (1 week ago)
“haha weil in amerika immer noch über die hälfte der leute denken dass electro schwul ist!
europa ist mit crookers schon viel weiter!

justice is sowas von überbewertet und die hier nerven einfach nur!”

>Once Again My Friend, Sean Rose Will Review Whatever You Want

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Mr. Sean Rose in the throes of desperation

That’s right, folks. Once again, I will let you request an album for me to review.

Okay – “letting you” request something is pretty pompous of me. More like I’m begging you to request something. Because once again I have found myself in a situation where I’m only writing about albums I already like and man it is boring me half to death! And I am sure it is boring you too. As such, I have not been updating nearly as frequently as I would like to.

But hey! You can change that! If there is any album by any band in the world – anything at all that you can imagine – that you just can’t wait to hear my opinions on, by golly leave a comment here! Or instant message me! Or email me at spydabass@gmail.com! Whatever you want man!! I swear I will try to review everything that is requested of me (which should not be too hard considering few people read this blog anyway).

Once again, a few guidelines:

1) Try to keep requests limited to full albums. I could probably review a couple songs or an EP or something, but I prefer full LPs. It’s just more interesting that way!

2) Try not to request anything too obscure. If I can’t find the dang album, I can’t review it, can I?? Of course, if you have the album to send to me or can link to it, it’s all good.

3) I might not like the album so please don’t get angry with me if I don’t!! Don’t request an album for me and automatically expect a good review. You are asking for my opinion! Sorry bro!!

But that’s it, really. I have faith in you guys. The last time I did this things worked out really well, even though I did not review everything you guys asked me too. My bad! That was super lazy of me! Promise that won’t happen again.

So yeah! Go for it folks. I am a desperate man who would like to listen to some music well outside of his comfort zone. Let your voices be heard.

>Album Review: "Off The Wall" by Michael Jackson

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what a nice young man

Let’s get this out of the way: yes, I am writing this review because Michael Jackson died. If Michael Jackson had not died recently I would not be writing this review. Yes, it is a sad fact of life that your casual American dude will only celebrate the mertis of a great artist after they have already died. “Where was all this adulation when they were ALIVE, you sycophantic poser??” some will say.

But hey! I’ve always loved Michael Jackson. I even wrote a review of 1991’s Dangerous last summer, during a personal fit of Jackson-mania. And while I admit I hadn’t been listening to the guy as much before his unfortunate death, he has always been apart of my musical spectrum, so to speak. I’d still throw on Off The Wall and Thriller at parties. The guy knew how to boogie down better than anybody back in the day – and nobody could craft more perfectly sequenced dance tracks, not even Prince. So why not use his tragic death as an excuse to write about him again?

And in contrast to the increasingly difficult last two decades of Jackson’s life, I would like to talk about 1979’s Off The Wall, no doubt the most joyous album Jackson would ever release. Thriller was obviously the iconic hit, but even that record has a more calculated commercial sheen to it – not to mention the first signs of Jackson’s ever-creeping paranoia. Off The Wall makes none of these concessions; it is an organic, exciting, endlessly danceable record, one that celebrates – in the greatest way possible – Jackson’s newfound sense of freedom as a solo artist. He’d done solo albums before, but they were mostly commercial side-projects orchestrated by Jackson 5 producers, with little creative input from MJ himself. Here, he is totally in control of every beat, every added instrument, every staccato vocal inflection – which gives the album a tight, cohesive feel. Never again would Jackson manage to craft and endless-dance album as perfectly as he did on Off The Wall; save for a few poppier numbers in the middle, and only one ballad, this album is chock-full of great disco-tinged shakers, and does not let up until the final strains of “Burn This Disco Out.”

Do we need to go over some tracks here? Yeah, let’s do that. The record kicks off with “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” the greatest dance song ever recorded. Yes, yes it is. Can we all agree on this? It is six minutes of pure dance floor perfection. Everything, from Michael’s intro “WHOO” to that horn-blaring middle-eight to that eerily funky guitar riff during the song’s fadeout is just… well, you know. “Rock With You” is next – oh jeez, I’m not going to even say anything on that one. Come on! You know it. Two other Rod Temperton songs – “Off The Wall” and “Burn This Disco Out” – can be found here, along with some great lesser-known songs by outside writers (“Girlfriend” by Paul McCartney, “I Can’t Help It” by Stevie Wonder). Fantastic lesser-known album tracks include “Workin’ Day And Night” (featuring a mesmerizing staccato breath-rhythm from MJ), “Get On The Floor,” “It’s The Falling In Love,” etc. etc. The ballad “She’s Out Of My Life” may break up the dancefloor euphoria for a little while, but it’s still great, probably the best schmaltzy ballad MJ could manage. So good, so good.

Maybe this review is becoming a little sycophantic. Yeah. But man, I love Off The Wall. If you’re looking for an MJ record without all the paranoia, anger, and (worse yet) “save the children” ploys, this is the record for you – probably the most theraputic listen possible after his death. He never sounded this organic, this unhindered, ever again. Sad, but true.

What I will say is that this review has yet to reveal how truly sad I am about Michael Jackson’s death. It didn’t hit me when it actually happened – I was almost relieved, at the time, to see him out of his misery – but when I heard about how close he was to his giant comeback concerts, it got to me. I mean, what if he’d had a legitimate comeback? What if the world fell in love with him all over again? Why didn’t he deserve one last moment? Man. Maaan.

To close this up, I’ll quote the last part of my Dangerous review from last year, which sums up my thoughts on MJ better than I can articulate at the moment:

“Y’know, there’s no point in me denying Michael Jackson. Yes, he doesn’t have the consistency nor the artistic cred that Prince has, but man, when he was big, he was bigger than anybody. I feel a comparison to Elvis is apt (I’m not saying MJ is better or equal to Elvis, it’s just for comparison): like Elvis, Michael Jackson wasn’t necessarily an absolutely stellar recording artist and was ultimately brought down by his bizarre personal life, but he honestly had the ability to touch the world at his peak (make all the jokes about that statement as you like), something Prince could never ever do. And most of the time, he had the music to back it up.”

Can’t say I’m happy with that Elvis comparison right about now.

Rest in peace, bud.