Hello and welcome to my “Get (Into) What You Paid For” challenge, in which I attempt to not buy anything for a month, and reevaluate my opinion of records I bought previously but never really became a true fan of, taking this purchase-abstinence as a chance to finally “get my money’s worth” out’ve the more undervalued albums in my collection. That; and present thoughts and musings that don’t fit elsewhere on the blog.
Ok. Its now Day 18. Apart from the mistake with the excitement of the Machine Head tickets, there have been no purchases. I damn near bought the comic book Crisis On Infinite Earths but fought it off at the last minute. I also nearly bought a few Megadeth b-sides as single mp3s but shook that off too.
Other than that, I’m pretty temptation free. I’ve spent most of my time watching documentaries on Netflix about health and food and vegetarianism (I’m not a vegetarian myself, but it was still good entertainment), lifting weights and eating more fruit and veg than I did in the entire last two months, maybe three months (I let my healthy eating slide about a year ago and am getting back to normal again now). If you watch the documentaries it really reminds you to get your vitamins and minerals. If I was in charge, I’d make kids watch them once every year to just remind them. At least they’d probably eat veg for a month every year. Even that small thing would add years to their lives and oodles to their quality of life later on.
But enough health propaganda. What about music?
I am also happy that my copy of Accept’s Blind Rage has dispatched. I should hopefully receive it tomorrow. Just in time for my free holiday to mainland Europe. It would be nice to have Blind Rage for the bus ride to the airport.
What else? I finally finished Dave Mustaine’s autobiography. It was really interesting, it goes from his childhood right up until the writing of Endgame, and although the period from United Abominations to Endgame is really, really short compared to everything else (every other album and tour cycle gets a detailed story), this is a remarkably consistent, honest, interesting and deep book.
He discusses his flaws, his embarrassments and his mistakes in a way that makes you understand how he thinks and how much of this can be attributed to drugs, and how much is just his personality. You can see where the different parts of his problems come from. You can see why the Metallica-firing hurt so much and really understand him. You can also see what a jerk he was to people. He points out his hypocrisies and bad decisions. On a human level, its just a really interesting and brutally honest book. (A warning though, it is a tad too homophobic at times.)
In addition to finishing that book I’ve also finished the DC Comic Book Crossover story Final Crisis. This is a story in which the stories from a bunch of different superheroes (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern etc.) all crash into one larger story. It’s an apocalypse sort of story. Mind control, dark gods, the end of the universe. Big name characters die or are injured. The consequences of this story affected things for a while afterwards. Apparently it was a huge deal at the time.
It’s a remarkably intelligent work that works on several levels as a commentary on comic books, stories, authors, and the responsibilities and rights associated with those things. The first time I read it, roughly one year ago, I was beyond baffled. Impenetrable would be a fair description. This time around, armed with documentaries about its author, Wikipedia breakdowns of the plot and characters, a years worth of Batman experience, a detailed series of fan analysis online and more patience than last time… I went in prepared and was rewarded. I enjoyed it a lot. I was entertained, I was impressed, I was educated. Good job. I’d happily read it again now that I’ve “got it.” I’d recommend it too, so long as you already like Grant Morison’s style.
I’ve also been watching The Metal Voice. I had watched things like this before at times such as Dom’s Iron Sandwhich and Cover Killer Nation. Youtube shows that are basically a podcast about heavy metal, often in the form of a man looking at a webcam and reviewing a Metal album. The Metal Voice is slightly better than most others in that they put some effort into it and its more like a public access TV show sometimes. Plus its Canadian. I thought they were really unfair with Slipknot… but oh well, can’t have everything.
So… time to appreciate some albums I bought but never felt like I got my money’s worth out of:I’m going to re-listen to Serj Tankian’s debut studio album, 2007’s Elect The Dead. This solo record, recorded shortly after the dissolution of the at-the-time absolute superstar band System Of A Down (an acrimonious demise that left you unsympathetic to the guys in the band), this album kind of passed me by as a bit throwaway.
Sure, here’s a new album, but who really cares?
It opens up with “Empty Walls” which is pretty much System Of A Down. Its also surprisingly awesome. I remember not liking it at the time because a) I had kind of got bored of SOAD and b) It seemed repetitive. Furthermore, it was 2007, so I was probably listening to nothing but Genesis, Yes, Pink Floyd, Camel, Rush, Gentle Giant, Jethro Tull and ELP… Serj doesn’t really fit in with that sort of palate.
Listening back now, this song is a real “hit single” or “classic song.” Regardless of its actual financial success, artistically, this is as good as any SOAD hit. Its as good to me as “Sugar” or “Chop Suey” or “B.Y.O.B.”
The next song, “Unthinking Majority” is pretty much the same… a brilliant catchy single that is as good as any SOAD banger. It has a bit more of an Eastern-tinge, and an awkward time-change dynamic with keyboards that is similar to stuff on his next album Imperfect Harmonies. This song is pretty great too.
Next comes “Money.” It starts off as a soulful, piano-led sort of ballad. Then there is an explosive BYOB-style racket of energetic metal/punk noise. Then it goes back to the keyboard stuff. This is also a pretty great song, and the softer side provides contrast to the previous tracks, but the chorus keeps it from feeling like a slowing-down. The pre-chorus is excellent. Nice song.
This is followed by “Feed Us.” Oh, what’s the point? You know what? This WHOLE ALBUM can be summed up by my feelings for “Empty Walls.” I wasn’t in the mood when the album came out, but this is way better than it is given credit for. A forgotten gem.
Every song is a short 2-4 banger that could be a lead single on any other album. Well, except the somber album closer… but apart from that moody number, every song could be a bouncy first-single.
Apart from the lack of Daron’s backing vocals you can barely tell it isn’t a SOAD album. The highlights for me are “Lie Lie Lie,” “Saving Us” and “Sky Is Over.” Even the track “Baby” which I used to hate for being a bit too wacky (in a cheesy way, rather than in a Protest The Hero tasteful-but-hectic way) with its silly pronunciation of the word “Baby” is actually a fabulous song. This is a rock solid album. Way, way better than it is given credit for. More consistent than most SOAD records. Better than the majority of solo albums from anyone in the Alternative Metal/Nu Metal spectrum.
Wow. This is good. Its lead me to listen to Imperfect Harmonies too. Its good. Not just as good (and if you are in the mood for a Rock Band playing Rock Songs its not right for you because its more like a Nine Inch Nails album, in that one artist with a laptop and a keyboard has written an electronics and vocals based record.) If it wasn’t for the big style-shift, this would be a lot better received. If you’re in the mood for it, this is a real strong album. In and of itself, for what it is, this is really strong.
Following that, I’ve just given his most recent effort, Harakiri, again. Its good. It sounds trite, but it is the halfway point between both of those records and his discography would make more sense if this was released between the first and second albums. I liked it at the time, I like it now. Its highlights, including “Figure It Out,” “Occupied Tears,” “Uneducated Democracy” and “Weave On” are all strong and worth your time. It mightn’t be the most strong and consistent record ever, but its highlights are all pretty sweet.
What else is it time to get my money’s worth? How about my boxset of Michael Schenker Group albums? I listened to all four studio albums in preparation for this article. They are a pretty decent band. They are sort of like a mixture between Thin Lizzy without the Thin-Lizzy unique touch, with 70s Judas Priest without their heaviness, with Coverdale era Deep Purple without their funk. Also some real pop radio choruses that can feel out of place. Awesome guitar solos as you would expect. Its really a guitar album (or albums). Its such a weird point between Rock and Metal that I can’t compare it to anything else I know (apart from UFO, obviously). I would love to hear Children Of Bodom or someone like that cover their songs. “Attack Of The Mad Axeman” is the prize find of the collection, an absolutely wonderful rock song. Such a fun riff! – The rest of it is a mixed bag of mostly good but rarely memorable. Every time I’ve ever listened to them, I’ve liked them more, but I’ve never gotten to the boy-oh-boy-I-love-this-band stage. Still, I don’t regret buying the nice cheap boxset of five albums (there’s a live album in it too), but I think it’ll take a few more listens before I feel I’ve gotten my money’s worth.On the subject of getting your money’s worth. I also spent last night listening to Burn My Eyes and Demanufacture. What can I say, I liked these two albums a lot anyway, and I already feel I got my money’s worth out of them, but I had some sort of real revelation last night and I really, really “got them” in a new way.
Its like, every other time I listened to them, there was a cloud of static in my brain. Like when you see a difficult math equation and you can’t even try to solve it because there is a cloud of static in your brain. Its that same exact feeling, and it has just cleared. I heard what a truly wonderful album Demanufactue is last night in a way I never knew before, in the entire decade (and more) since I bought it.
Sometimes its hearing another album, or seeing a documentary, or using new speakers, or a new EQ setting, or simply aging, but sometimes my brain just totally changes shape and new things come in. On first listen, Dream Theater’s Scenes From A Memory was a cheesy mess of stolen ELP parts and no Metal, and now it is a masterpiece and surprisingly heavy.
Now, Burn My Eyes and Demanufacture just got some “golden ticket” invitation to the awesome centre of my brain. Interesting how this stuff happens. I’d like to see some neurological data about it, but…. Failing that, I’ll just blog about it here and see what you guys think is going on?
What is the cloud of static in my brain, and why has it shifted away from these two records?