Apologies for my lack of a post last week--I was literally out of the country, in Germany at the Reeperbahn Festival, which you can read about here if you'd like, thus had no relevant opinions whatsoever about music!
Rest assured, however, that if I were here, I'd probably have written fascinating analyses of the latest albums by Neil Young, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Eat World, Seal, Phil Collins, Kenny Chesney, the Doobie Brothers, the fabulous reissue of David Bowie's Station To Station, Mark Ronson and the Gin Blossoms! And I'd be willing to bet that each account would be overly hyperbolic, deliberately goofy, include a few moronic puns, and also include a well-intentioned piece of misinformation, placed there purely to elicit a protest from unwitting readers just for kicks!
There might also have been excessive punctuation!
Sadly, though, no such blog exists--but suffice to say that if it did, it would likely be acclaimed throughout the world, garner several awards for its very craft, offer ten dollars to each individual reader, and look precisely like this one, but with different pictures!
And as always, appearances are everything!
John Lennon: Signature Box (Capitol) It's always great fun reviewing the collected works of a major artist; one of my major regrets as a music critic was never getting around to reviewing the Beatles' mono box and calling it "disappointing"! But this great big new 11-CD box, gathering John Lennon's 1971-84 solo albums, can truly be assessed for its worth as a music collection, as it contains all of Lennon's major post-Beatle works, great and small, and while some of it is fabulous, some of it is not! Which is OK! As an object, it also offers up a 2-CD set of rarities, a special book containing essays from the family surprisingly plugging late '60s art-rock band Yes, and is indeed the very epitome of early 21st century tasteful packaging! Many of the songs are quite good as well! Should you buy it if you already have most of these albums? Sure, go ahead!
Toby Keith: Bullets In The Gun (Show Dog/Universal) I like Toby Keith, mostly because there is a certain directness to his songs that I know is placed there because it resonates with his loving audience--which means that, say, a song like "Get Out Of My Car"--really, an enviable song title--is likely aimed at that segment of America which has either uttered those words or would at one point have liked to! And the big questions, like who exactly is the song addressed to--a wife, a lover, a boyfriend, a cheap hussy, a bothersome wasp or spider, a parking ticket?--don't really matter in the scheme of things, especially since the album title's simple acceptance of a gun's very existence already sends out a subtle message to the buying audience! And I sure like that cover!
KT Tunstall: Tiger Suit (Virgin) I'm a big fan of KT Tunstall, because she is a completely self-contained music generating music unit, is cute as a button, writes surprisingly catchy songs, and is generally--and I don't mean this literally--sharp as a tack! This new album, recorded in Berlin's classy Hansa Studios, is a tad less "organic" than is her norm thanks to noticeable contributions by a former Sneaker Pimp, but from where I stand, that's good, not bad! Wait a minute, let me move over a few feet. No, it's still good, even from here! Anyone who can put together a clever song with a few good hooks is OK in my book, and KT certainly can! And if her infamous legal turmoils with a certain baseball team have left an odd mark coloring her aesthetic stance, so be it!
David Archuleta: The Other Side Of Down (19 Recordings) I don't know about you, but I'm a little tired of all this hubbub about American Idol participants and their ultimate worth as music artists! It's easy to call them meaningless, fame-craving empty vessels who will do absolutely anything they can in order to achieve a record deal--but is it really accurate? Can't some of them actually make a record that means anything to them personally? Well, in the case of young David Archuleta, who prior to his Idol stint spent several years at a local Sit 'N Sleep shop spelling out the difference between Sealy, Simmons and Serta mattresses to potential customers, the answer is clearly Yes I Can! Unfortunately, a wealth of knowledge about quality pillows and comforters may not translate to the majority of today's record buyers, but you know what? Not everyone needs a new album, but everyone needs a brand new bed!
Joe Satriani: Black Swans And Wormhole Wizards (Epic) There has been an unfortunate tendency among music critics, probably since the dawn of punk rock, to discount those musicians out there who are simply too technically adept as playing mind-numbing, hollow music that ultimately doesn't mean much compared to, I don't know, a simple "1-2-3-4" song intro by the Ramones! How dopey! Both can be equally meaningless! But let's face facts--Satriani has a great haircut, is Italian, plays a sexy red guitar, and isn't above making appearances on YouTube with Coldplay! Plus his music sounds better than ever! Frankly, I don't know what the heck most of these songs are about--the words are sort of inaudible--but that only makes them more timeless than ever! I'm completely digging this thing!
Faith Evans: Something About Faith (Entertainment One) The first album in five years from Grammy-winning R&B songstress is a good one: substantial music, varied arrangements, guest appearances by Snoop Dogg and Keyshia Cole, and cover art straight out of the next National Velvet remake! I can't wait to hear it! Unfortunately, Something About Faith is a press release! Apparently the album itself will be called Faith's New Record! Literalism: the bane of our very existence!
Soundgarden: Telephantasm (A&M) Sometimes bands who were once a great big deal sound kind of iffy years after the fact, but this is not the case with Soundgarden, whose collection here--a deluxe set featuring 2 CDs and a DVD--is a welcome reminder that these former rockin' dudes were once dudes who rocked! What I liked best about 'em was they whether they were deliberately being ironic or not with their dopey HM posing--it was the late '80s/early '90s back then, don't forget--it really doesn't make much of difference, sonically speaking! And excess--which this band really excelled at--sounds great no matter what year you're hearing it! I recommend not only buying but playing it!
Bring Me The Horizon: There Is a Hell Believe Me I've Seen It. There Is a Heaven Lets Keep It a Secret (Epitath) Some say this British band is "defining the sound of modern metal as we know it"! Others say the years they spent as parking lot attendants and their extraordinary hatred of Plymouths has colored their music and lifestyle on profound levels! Still others suggest that were they to hire David Clayton-Thomas as their new lead singer and do nothing but perform "Spinning Wheel" repeatedly until they were booed offstage, that would be fascinating to watch! All I know is the guy on the album cover has great abs!
Fran Healy: Wreckorder (Ryko) The first solo album from the singer and major writer from Travis is a good one--actually sort of better than that band's last few, if you ask me--because of the variety of songs, the depth of the writing, the guest appearances by Neko Case and Paul McCartney (on bass), and the fact that it's not bad to listen to while you're stuck on the 405 worrying about whether you're going to get to work on time! Of course, that may just be me! I figure if you're a teenaged guy named Fran, you'll probably spend a lot of time alone in your bedroom learning how to write good songs!