Archive for the ‘Rock’ Category

I remember doing school projects about Marilyn Manson when I was in high school. I remember countless discussions about him with friends. I remember staying up late to see him when he would be on TV. I remember almost having the chance to see him, but missing out due to work (I only finally saw him last year). I remember reading his autobiography at least three times a year, every year, from about age 12 to age 25. When I think of the albums that have had the biggest impact on my taste, that I have loved for the longest, that have held up the most over the years; Marilyn Manson’s 4th full-length official studio album, 2001’s Holy Wood In The Shadow Of The Valley Of Death (…or just ”Holywood” for short) is never far from the top of the list.

He is a very diverse and eclectic artist, that has covered a lot of diferent ground over the years, but I would instantly blurt out ‘’Holywood!’’ before you had even finished asking me what my favourite album of his is. It was a real high point in his career artistically, even if commercially the previous two albums were bigger and this one was hindered by all that Columbine witch hunt nonsense. I don’t want to talk about that unfortunate business too much, but you can’t skim over it entirely. It certainly informed the tone of the album. The key phrase that really defines the whole album is ‘‘Guns, God and Government.’’ Its biting and acerbic lyrics cleverly dissect American political, religious and pop culture values in a really insightful way. I have to say, of all his albums, this one hands down has the best lyrics, the sharpest pen, the best blend of venom and wisdom behind it.

Its also a prog-esque masterpiece. The prequel to a conceptual trilogy (the triptych) beginning with his breakthrough record Antichrist Superstar and retroactively ending with the one that came before this, Mechanical Albums.

That’s just the lyrics. Where to even begin with the music…? The album contains two of the man/band’s best ever singles in ‘The Fight Song’ and ‘Disposable Teens’ which are beyond catchy, with incredibly memorable vocals, riffs and drums.  Equally memorable high energy moments are the utterly furious ‘Burning Flag’ which is one of Manson’s fastest and nastiest songs ever, or ‘Born Again’ which is one of the bounciest and catchiest songs any artist has ever written without releasing it as a single. Equally ‘The Love Song’ and ‘The Death Song’ are unforgettable gems that would be a lesser band’s biggest hit and proud concert finisher, yet here they are just two more songs among ninteen.

Its not all high energy though. Its 19 songs crossing numerous subgenres. A very wide range of moods and tones, speeds and directions all on display. The album can be incredibly dark and bleak, ‘Count To Six And Die’ literally ends with someone shooting themselves to death with a revolver. That’s a pretty ballsy move to make after just having been falsely accused of inspiring a mass shooting. ‘Coma Black’ is a dark sister song to the previous hit single Coma White, and the industrial-meets-prog ‘Cruci-fiction In Space’ sounds like some Bizarre mixture of Rammstein meets Rush at their darker moments. It was so cool how on live shows from this era it would tie into the theatrics (as seen on the excellent Guns God And Government Live In LA blu ray). I won’t even bother to describe it, I wouldn’t do it justic, just go and see for yourself.

Everything about this album is so interesting. Even the cover artwork is so iconic. Manson crucified with his jaw removed so he can’t tell his side of thestory. So his message is censored. It would be on the nose if it wasn’t so apros pos. Even the artwork on the inside of the booklet creates such a perfect aesthetic that runs through all the advertisements and music videos and single artwork. All that zodiac and tarrot imagery with creepy folk and religious imagery conjures up a scary vibe to terrify those who were already afraid of him. There was a really strong visual identity for this whole era, and it perfectly suited the music.

Thank god (and guns, and the government) that Manson got into this headspace at this point in time, with this band backing him. I know that some of it is nostalgia about a moment in time, but even when trying to look at it objectively, there is just something so special about this album. The music, the lyrics, the artwork. Its just such a perfectly formed and perfectly realised vision from beginning to end. He balances so many things, so well. This record is such an interesting journey. Its somehow instantaneous and a slow burn at the same time. Its somehow fun and horrendously austere at the same time. It feels somehow simultaneously like a misunderstood gem, and an obvious magnum opus. Cut the album in half with a certain mix of songs and it would feel like a dancefloor greatest hits set. Cut the album another way and it is a sombre and murky journey through the grimey underbelly of the complex country that rejected Manson so hatefully. He spits that hate back tenfold and sounds good doing it.

I am not the oldest Volbeat fan, I only discovered them last year at Download Festival 2018, but I have been listening to them absolutely non-stop ever since.

Volbeat cds for birthday and Christmas, Volbeat t-shirts under my work clothes pretty often, Volbeat on the car stereo during every road trip to visit relatives, Volbeat in the car ride to work almost every work day. Overall; I’ve listened to over 2,900 times in the past year. Something that few other bands can boast. Since records began in 2011 (when I started tracking it via LastFm), they are my 9th most listened-to artist. So basically; I’ve listened to them more in one year than I have some of my favourite ever bands, almost any other band in fact, in the last 8 years.

So you could say, that coming into this new album, which is the first new one to be released in my time as a fan (not counting the amazing live album, Let’s Boogie! Live from Telia Parken), that I was more than a little excited.

…So imagine my surprise when the first time I listened to it, I didn’t really care for it. At all.

Now, that was partially my own fault, first of all I was lifting weights on a red hot Summer’s day, with a noisy fan on while I did so, so maybe it wasn’t really hearing it in the best conditions. Additionally; I was beyond hyped, so I wasn’t really going in with realistic expectations.

Having listened to it a good few more times, some of them while driving, some while exercising and some just sitting there in a quiet room paying close attention, it has definitely grown on me more.

There are some stand out tracks that I am really happy to have in my Volbeat collection and which I would be excited to see live. ‘Die To Live’ is probably the best of them. I mean, how could it not be, featuring as it does guest vocals from the mighty Neil Fallon from Clutch. It is a jaunty up tempo rock n’ roller with tinkly piano reminiscent of Illusion era GnR and fun saxophone reminiscent of the Boomtown Rats but a basic bouncy pop punk structure for the rest of the song that wouldn’t be out of place on a mid period Green Day or Rancid album. Real fun tune.

There is also the singles ‘Parasite’ which is a 40 second punk statement with punctuated vocals and oodles of energy, and ‘Leviathan’ which is just an absolute sing-along anthem up there with previous gems like ‘Heaven Nor Hell’ or ‘Thanks’ or ‘Lola Montez’ in the Volbeat-sound-like-fun stakes. The band are always great when Jon gets pounding on the floor toms. It is the kind of smile-inducing big stadium shouter that makes you remember how fun Rock Music is when you are 13 years old.

Another great thing about the album is the lead guitar work, Michael and Rob’s lead guitar lines and solos are utterly majestic at times (think the Guitar solo from Anthrax’s ‘Safe Home’ and you’ll know what I mean)… the kind of magical guitar solo that transports you to another place.

That said. I don’t think I would be out of place in saying this is the band’s worst album. Well, if not worst, then, least good. The first point against it in my book is really subjective, but it is just not heavy enough. There’s maybe two Metal songs on it. ‘The Everlasting’ and ‘Cheapside Sloggers’ (with guest guitar from Exodus’ Gary Holt!) are the heaviest tunes, but they stand sort of alone in that front… and even ‘Cheapside Sloggers’ is only Metal in the second half once the guitar solo section kicks it up a notch.

The second thing against it is they re-use a lot of things from previous albums. Single ‘Pelvis On Fire’ for example will be real good fun if it is the first Volbeat song you ever hear but it is exactly halfway between ‘Devil Or The Blue Cats Song’ and ‘Sad Man’s Tongue’ and you kind of feel they are ripping themselves off a little bit. Haven’t I heard that vocal melody before? Hasn’t he done an Elvis voice before? That slow down speed up thing sounds familiar.

The third thing, again subjective, is that they do too much of the overly earnest big American radio rock style. On the previous album they did it a bit on tracks like ‘Goodbye Forever’ or on the album previous to that, with ‘Cape Of Our Hero’ but they did it really, really well and in small doses. Here they do it so much it kind of overwhelms the album. They do inject Volbeatness into those songs, but just not enough for my tastes. It makes the album sound a bit bland. Usually a Volbeat album is a rollercoaster going from sounding Psychobilly, to Pop Punk to Groove Metal to Stoner Metal to 1950s Rock N’ Roll to Metallica-Worship and back again, all in a seamless package where it all flows together and you don’t even realise its weird that bagpipes have entered the mix.

On this album it feels like a radio rock album with a few detours. Initially at least. The more I listen to it the more I get into it. I also feel like me saying they do too many radio songs is a bit like Millicent Stone in the TV show Bunheads telling the ballet dancers they are doing too much of a certain step (when she herself has no knowledge of dancing). And saying there isn’t enough metal is a bit silly when the tracks I have said where the best songs, ‘Die To Live,’ ‘Parasite’ and ‘Leviathan’ are in no way metal and are still brilliant. And some of my all time favourite Volbeat songs from across the discography like ‘Lola Montez’ and ‘Sad Man’s Tongue’ and ‘Still Counting’ aren’t metal either.

That’s perhaps a conflicted mess of a review. To summarise I would sum it up thusly, the gut reaction was negative but its a grower and although I would certainly not make it your first Volbeat album unless you love earnest radio rock, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a disappointment and it has at least 5 or 6 songs I am really happy with and will be happy to include on future playlists, and would be happy to see live. However; if all you liked about Volbeat was the heavier side of them, like ‘Pool of Booze, Booze, Booza,’ ‘Slaytan’ and ‘Wild Rover Of Hell’ …then maybe this album might not be an instant hit with you either.

Seattle’s Metal Church are an interesting band, hard to place. They can sound like a mixture between (fellow Seattle band) Queensryche and early Savatage at times, basically writing Thrash Metal at other times and writing big ‘80s Power Ballads at other times.

The previous album was a bit more serious and proggy. The one before that was their thrashiest of the early records and the one after this goes a bit stripped down. They cover a lot of ground, but I like all of their solid and diverse first five albums more or less equally.

Well, with one exception. Their fourth album, 1991’s The Human Factor is by far and away my favourite. This album is an absolute stand out. I don’t know what happened here, if it is the production, the song writing, or the performance, but this album just utterly smokes.

The album is consistent from beginning to end in a way that makes it hard to choose highlights. There is the ridiculously catchy hard rock single ‘Date With Poverty’ with memorable guitar hooks, there is the furious blood pumping Thrash attack of ‘The Final Word,’ ‘The Fight Song’ and ‘Flee From Reality.’ The opener ‘Human Factor’ has the same confidence of Symbol Of Salvation era Armored Saint.

Lyrically the album is really interesting too. ‘In Mourning’ is similar to Sacred Reich’s ‘Who’s To Blame?’ in the Metal-doesn’t-cause-suicide theme. ‘The Final Word’ seems to be a patriotic song about the good sides of America, ‘Date With Poverty’ is a socially aware track.

Musically, the album is utterly bombastic. The Marshall/Wells guitar team fill the album with a barrage of riffs and solos. The Erickson/Arrington rhythm section is on point. But the real star here are Mike Howe’s incredible vocals. The man has ‘some serious lungs on him’ as they say, an utter superstar vocal performance that elevates the record far above the competition. I mean as much as I have been big-ing up the album’s heavier moments, on ‘Agent Green’ (which seems to be an attempt to improve upon the popular ‘Watch The Children Play’ from the previous album) he sounds almost like Geddy Lee at times.

Overall; this album is great album in every way. It sounds great. The songs are great and the performances are particularly great. I would absolutely recommend this to any fan of Hard Rock, Metal.

If their astoundingly good breakthrough album New Wave was called a sell out, then than was nothing compared to its follow-up, 2011’s White Crosses album. Singer Laura Jane Grace describes the backlash brilliantly in the autobiography Tranny: Confessions Of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout.

It was the band’s last album before their seminal, momentous, once-in-a-generation masterpiece Transgender Dysphoria Blues. In the band’s catalogue it has a really distinctive style. I mean, no two Against Me! albums sound much alike anyway, but even taking that into account, this is even more different yet again. Its unarguably their most commercial release to date. Its unarguably their cleanest album to date. It is their most radio friendly effort to date. Its kind of a grower in places. But don’t ever let anyone tell you that it isn’t fantastic.

One of the best songs I think I’ve ever heard by any artist comes from this record (‘Because Of The Shame’ …a really touching and emotional songs in the band’s already weighty cannon, describing coming back to town for the funeral of someone you slept with, and all the difficult emotions seeing them and their family). As well as being interesting lyrically however; it is outrageously catchy and memorable musically. It has that same mega-anthemic feel as someone like The Foo Fighter’s biggest songs but with so much more oomph and edge.

Not that the album is a one trick pony either. Single ‘I Was A Teenage Anarchist’ is a real ballsy ode to the bands oh-so-punk past, and how they aren’t that band anymore much to the chagrin of the punker-than-thou original fans. Lines like ‘’I was a teenage Anarchist but the politics were too convenient’’ and ‘’the revolution was a lie’’ are so refreshing to hear in music’s don’t-you-dare-sell-out culture.  Once again, I’m talking a bit too much about the lyrics, but it is one real bad ass rock song that you can hum all day long and gets stuck in your head for days. The fun surf-rock tone of the guitar solo and the breathy opening non-lyrical ‘ah ha ha ah ah, ha haha’ noises are real highlights.

Its not all anthemic rockers either, there’s the harmonica and acoustic guitar woozy vibes of ‘Bob Dylan Dream’ (a song about exactly what you think its about) that to me is as infinitely sing-able as something like Country Roads or Dirty Old Town are to the drunken masses. ‘Ache With Me’ is similarly quiet but more contemplative and sad sounding.

The rhythmic ‘Bamboo Bones’ is so bouncy and fun, with excellent drumming and a bigger chorus than any of the genre’s biggest bands. When the singer lets out the wounded bellow of ‘’What God doesn’t give to you, you’ve got to go and get for yourself’’ you can hear so many different shades of emotion I want to give it some kind of award. How the hell this song isn’t a global mega hit like Queen’s ‘Somebody To Love’ I’ll never know.

Its pointless sitting here pointing out highlights, because every song is great. Rapid Decompression and One By One and Bitter Divisions are all melodic but up tempos rockers that would all be the best song on a lesser band’s album. Suffocation, Spanish Moss and Lehigh Acres are all catchy as hell with interesting lyrics. The only song I didn’t love right away was the title track, but that’s grown on me a lot over time too.

Overall; a superb album, as chocked full of memorable moments as an average band’s greatest hits collection. Its their least punk and their most commercial release. But as long as the songs are this catchy, then who the hell cares? (Well, the punker than thou crowd cared, as we discussed above, but for everyone else, just lay back and let the good tunes wash over you).

I remember when Baroness first broke out, they were quite sludgy and while not inaccessible, certainly not quite radio-friendly either. Early albums like Red Album and Blue Record mixed Thin Lizzy clean guitar with thick stoner-sludge and swampy vocals. I remember also, when they dropped their double album ‘Yellow And Green’ and they went from a band I liked a bit due to a slight Mastodon similarity, to a band I really cared about and actively followed.

To date, I still think of Yellow & Green as an utter masterpiece and that it was one of the best albums by anyone I care about to be released that year. Its when the band really stepped out of any other band’s shadows or any one subgenre’s constraints and just went everywhere they wanted all at once…. The follow up Purple was near as good, trying (and succeeding) to condense the sprawling mix of styles, tempos and timbres of the very diverse double album into one single straight-up rock record with flavours from everything the band had done before but a focus on being succinct and accessible (without sounding too far from their more metallic roots of course).

With their new album, Gold & Grey, the band are leaning a bit back more into Yellow & Green’s experimental territories. There is a focus on diversity here. Succinct is not a word I’d use to describe this. This album seems to be reveling in the freedom to do everything and anything. ‘Seasons’ for example has spidery guitar lines that wouldn’t feel out of place on a King Crimson album, mixed with a strange lo-fi noisy production job that makes it sound like some Sonic Youth style art rock piece, but then there are also blast-beats in their briefly to bring back the metal. Sometimes it goes full prog, with ‘Sevens’ sounding like mid period Camel. ‘Broken Halo’ has some lovely bridges that I can see crowds loving when this material is toured live, but goes a bit Yes during the solo.  

There are also quite a few brief quiet, sombre, slow numbers across the album’s 17-track duration. ‘Blankets of Ash’ for example is a nice sounding acoustic guitar interlude over some creepy foreboding soundscape. ‘Crooked Mile’ is a jangly acoustic number that sounds more like an intro than a full blown tune of its own. ‘Assault On East Falls’ sounds like the music from a dream sequence in a Japanse videogame.

You can hear a bit more Radiohead and a bit less Red Fang in the DNA at times I guess (the intro to ‘Tourniquet’ or for example), but that being said there are still enough big fat choruses and catchy hooks to keep the sing-along feel of Purple. The album opener ‘Front Toward Enemy’ for example is just a foot down melodic rocker to get the blood pumping. The chorus to the single ‘Throw Me An Anchor’ is almost as catchy as something like ‘Take My Bones Away’ or ‘Shock Me’ from previous albums. ‘I’ll Do Anything’ sounds like it could be used to advertise the Olympics. Its like if Bon Iver took happy pills and wanted to inspire people to action.

Singer John Dyer Baizley’s rich voice really sets this band apart from the crowd, and when he really leans into the big melodies, it is proper 360 degree helicopter shots on a cliffside stuff. He has such a powerful and evocative voice that can make any line sound immensely meaningful and majestic.  

Considering the line-up change between albums, it still sounds totally like Baroness. You may not have had female backing vocals back on Blue Record but the way John and Gina’s vocals blend and mesh together just sound right.

The album isn’t without its flaws however. The production seems to be quite controversial based on all people I’ve seen complaining on social media. It is also a bit tough to swallow in one go, sitting somewhere between standard and double album length. (Its only an hour, but with 17 tracks there is a lot of different moods, directions and sounds to digest and so it takes up more brainpower than your typical 10-14 track album. If you just wanted an album of ‘Shock Me’ clones, something like ‘Can Oscura’ might be a bit off-putting for example). You couldn’t just slap this on in the background once and love it forever, it’s a grower that you’ve got to give a lot of attention to. That being said, these are minor flaws at the most. I didn’t really consider the production notable until it was pointed out to me by others, and usually an album being a grower at the start leads to an album you’re still loving years later rather than an album that would lose its flavour as fast as chewing gum if it popped right away.

Maybe if you were only into the band for the heaviness of the early days, this album won’t suit you. If you liked the last two albums though, this album is very much going to be right up your street. Its softer, proggier and more considered than it is bludgeoning and meaty. It’s a bit more ponderous than direct and rocking. But it is definitely worth checking out, sticking on repeat and loosing yourself in. It’s an odyssey of new worlds to glimpse, it’s a journey to get lost on. You might not want to head-bang, but you’ll never be bored.

I went to go see Clutch live at Cardiff Great Hall Sunday 16th June 2019. It was my first concert since the birth of my son, I didn’t want to be away from him too long, so skipped the opening act and got their late.

The support band I did manage to see was Phil Campbell And The Bastard Sons; a band with Phil Campbell from Motorhead and three of his sons (and then a singer). They were quite decent, playing mixed tempo rock songs. A few speedy numbers, a few mid-paced rockers and one fun slow song with a stoner rock vibe. They also covered ‘Born To Raise Hell’ and ‘Ace Of Spades.’ This marks the second time I’ve seen a Motorhead member play Ace Of Spades with a different band (I saw Fast Eddie Clarke supporting Saxon previously). I kind of feel bad but like when Diamond Head played ‘Am I Evil?’ versus new songs, the audience reaction was so much more enthusiastic for the Motorhead tunes versus the origional tunes, as was my own. Not being disrespectful, but Motohead tunes are Motorhead tunes. Still, I liked their own material fair enough too, it was a fun warm up and I don’t have anything to say about the band. I feel they would really suit touring with Orange Goblin.

Usually at a gig in the long wait between bands I have no-one to talk to, but this time my brother wanted to see Clutch too, so I had someone to speculate on setlists with a discuss the new album and favourite songs with during the wait.

Because its Clutch, not someone violent and heavy, I decided to stay at the back and just nod along having a good time rather than get into the thick of it. This venue is good in that you can see the band just as well from the back wall behind the sound desk as you can in the middle of the room. I did the same thing for Mastodon the first time I was at this venue, just sit back and watch the band without getting too sweaty.

Clutch are one of those bands that literally do not play the same set two nights in the row, and any night you can hear different songs. Sometimes they even don’t play their most well known songs. Some days they play mostly new stuff, some times they play mostly old stuff, some times anything can happen. The setlist yesterday was an eclectic grab bag of all eras. They opened with a deep cut off their self titled ‘90s classic sophomore album. ‘Escape From The Prison Planet.’ They played a few tracks off their furious and outrageously fun modern album, Psychic Warfare, They played a respectable amount of material from their new album, they dropped in ‘Red Horse Rainbows’ from Pure Rock Fury for the first time since 2011, and even played some rare material like ‘Willie Nelson’ from their B Sides album and the really early track ‘Passive Restraints.’

Luckily, even amongst the eclecticism they got to play what I feel is their most well known song (I may be wrong, they’re not exactly a one hit wonder) ‘The Mob Goes Wild’ which is one of my favourite songs by anyone, ever, of all time. Seeing it live is not a guarantee. Its not like Metallica and Enter Sandman where you know its going to be there, so it was very fun to get to see it once again. Also; they played my favourite song from the new album, the outrageously fun ‘How To Shake Hands.’ My throat is still sore from how loud I sang along to ‘’First thing that I’m gonna do is go for a ride on a UFO.’’ I am sure I’m not the only one either, the room utterly loved it, the energy in the crowd was immense.

Other highlights include a bouncy rendition of ‘Ghoul Wrangler’ with its amusing pest-control-against-lawyers lyrics,  (any band can make a lawyers-are-ghouls comparison, but only Clutch are creative enough to have a snowy barn infested with them as the owner gets his pest control business certified and bonded), an interesting take on blues classic ‘Evil’ (also covered by Monster Magnet) and the title track from Psychic Warfare, which I never previously realised was a massive hit, but which the crowd utterly salivated over. The volume of the singalongs was extra loud on that one!

The performance from the band was great. The solos and fills were superb. The vocals so character-filled and colourful. The gesturing and acting out of the lyrics live by singer Neil Fallon so enthusiastic and powerful. The guitar tone was often better than the albums.  The mix was pretty perfect with nothing inaudible and nothing over-loud.

It was also just so fun to turn around every few seconds and share with other fans some golden gem of a lyric, drum fill or guitar part. You’d lock eyes with someone else air-guitaring the intro to ‘Electric Worry’ or air drumming the floor tom parts to ‘Gimmie The Keys’ or singing with a grin on their face countless memorable lyrics.

‘Just a glass of water and a ham sandwich,’ or ‘Everybody move to Canada,’ or ‘Weaponized Funk,’ or ‘He said I have seen them, I said ok its yours!’ and so on and so on. Clutch songs and albums are absolutely littered with enough memorable moments to fill a greatest hits album of most bands. Having a whole concert full of them is just joyous.

I had an uproariously good time, the band were fantastic, (and I didn’t have to travel half way around the country away from the baby). I could have happily wathced them play two more hours and still not heard all I wanted to hear from them. Brilliant band, brillaint night.

I cannot recommend seeing Clutch live highly enough. The band write superb music, they play it brilliantly live and the setlist is a roulette where anything can happen, but its always good.  

I have been an Arctic Monkeys fan for a fairly long time. Basically, since the same month the debut album dropped. I have bought all their early singles and like all the B-Sides and deep cuts as much as the fan favourite stuff. I still liked the more controversial moments like their Humbug album and the trippy B-sides from the Suck It And See era singles.

Basically; I am not some casual fan who just cares about the big hits. Coming into this record, the band have basically done no wrong.

…And then we come to this album. To the moon. The Tranquillity Base to be specific. Now, I am not a fan of negative reviews. You may have noticed reading this blog, there are ‘its good’ and ‘its average’ reviews in abundance, but not many, if any ‘what a pile of shit’ reviews. I am very much of the ‘’If you can’t say anything nice then don’t say anything at all’’ approach to reviews. That being said, this album is very possibly the single worst album I have heard by a good band in a long time.

Don’t take this for me just not liking the band’s change of direction. This album is a bit progressive, a bit psychedelic, a bit dreamy, and very low key. As I said though, I like the band doing all sorts of things. Its not like ‘’Your So Dark’’ from the last album’s B-Sides or ‘’Fire Side’’ from the last album didn’t work with the band being low key. Its not as if ‘’Pretty Visitors’’ and ‘’The Jeweller’s Hands’’ from Humbug didn’t work with the band being a bit Psychedelic. Its not as if I don’t like me a bit of prog now and again or the general sound of this album (sometimes I can pick up little flavours of Caravan here and there).

Its not even as if the theme of a hotel and casino on the moon, and songs from the perspective of different staff and visitors is too confusing or off-putting.  Just look at how many Mastodon, Dream Theater, Pink Floyd, Queensryche or Coheed & Cambria albums I own to know I am a big fan of concept albums.

No; the problem with this album isn’t the direction or the concept. Its not that it is a departure from previous styles. Its not that it is for serious fans only. The fan is that the songs are uniformly boring. The material uninspiring. The whole album is one-paced, uninteresting and forgettable. It is a samey sludge of un-music that is so dreadfully dull it may as well not exist. If you don’t have laser-beam focus on it you can’t tell when one song ends and the other begins (my wife has been heard to remark ‘’Is this still the same song?!’’ three songs later).

Okay, in fairness; When you do focus as hard as you can, its not all bad… You can hear some flashes of attempted hooks. For example, in ‘Star Treatment’ there is a line that goes ‘’who you gonna call, the Martini-police?’’ that is musically catchy (even if the lyric itself is a bit smug and pretentious). The bit on the title track where he says the title of the album is also good. The single ‘Four Out Of Five’ is kind of decent all the way through and is somewhat reminiscent of their better single from Humbug, ‘Cornerstone.’

But really; you shouldn’t have to dig so deep to apologetically try and find some small sliver of likeability. Compare that to their debut album, where it is literally as difficult to find something NOT to like as it is to name great moments from here, and you can see by just how far this once great band has missed the mark.

How do we explain this terrible dirge of an album? Maybe this album was a response to the huge success of the previous album AM. Maybe the band were sick of playing bangers like ‘Arabella’ for years on end and wanted to do something deeper. Maybe the band have always wanted to make this album and are only now in a position to risk it with near universal acclaim for a decade to buoy their confidence. Maybe they just took a bunch of drugs after hanging around Josh Homme too long and decided to get trippy. Who knows?

All I know is I have listened to this album so many more times than it deserved, constantly trying to get it to ‘click.’ Constantly trying to discovery its hidden depths. Constantly trying to find the good in it. I have tried across several months, in different contexts, with different kinds of music before and after, just wanting something good to happen.

The only thing that happened is that I finally felt allowed to give up on it. This is not a deep a profound work. This is not a slow burn. This is not a grower. This is not even one for hardcore fans only. This is, unfortunately, as much as it goes against my instincts to say so… a pile of shit.