Smash Mouth – Astro Lounge
My previous experiences with Smash Mouth have been somewhat varied, and I’ll start by saying two things: I DO like surf-rock, I DO NOT like ska-punk. I’ve turned on a Smash Mouth record before after hearing some songs I really enjoyed, then been horribly disappointed by the fact that I ended up listening to ska-punk. So my expectations for Astro Lounge were somewhat reserved. I figured if I didn’t expect too much, I wouldn’t be disappointed by whatever happened. That’s pretty much what happened.
The Good: I’m presuming many Smash Mouth fans wouldn’t be too pleased to read this, but with Astro Lounge, it feels like Smash Mouth got over ska-punk, for the most part anyway. That’s invariably a good thing, and the surf-rock sound that’s making an appearance in some of these songs is a welcome addition to the album. The lyrics are fairly consistently fun and there are lots of fun rhythms and riffs going on in plenty of the tracks, often much reminiscent of the early The Doors records, which again, can’t be a bad thing.
The Bad: What Smash Mouth are good at is fast, catchy, bouncy pop-rock songs. Unfortunately, that’s not all they do. Although the ska-punk sound of some Smash Mouth records is fairly absent on Astro Lounge (aside from the, in all fairness, more reggae themed ‘Road Man, there’s quite a bit of dreary, fairly uninspiring rock lingering in this album, manifested in tracks such as ‘Waste’, ‘Stoned’ and ‘Fallen Horses’.
The Unique: The first thing that springs to mind when I think about Smash Mouth, or listen to their music is ‘Wow Smash Mouth are the happiest band ever’. I’m sticking by that, and that’s the characteristic that stands out the most. The generally pleasant mixture of surf-rock, pop, funk and punk is one I’d definitely like to hear more of, but never seem to actually succeed in doing so.
Favourite Tracks: Off to a fairly good start, ‘Diggin Your Scene’, the second track, with quick, slightly frantic drum beats, and all the other instruments playing together produces an altogether great sound from the offset. The reggae-tinted ‘Road Man’ is much more fun than the impression I got of it at first, and of course, who doesn’t know and love ‘All Star’ the perfect happy, catchy, sing-along hit (hint, you know this from Pixars ‘Shrek’)
Overall, grew on me after a few listens, but interestingly, this album wasn’t one that I needed to try to listen to repeatedly. It just drew me back in. If you’re looking for ska, and somebody has said to you ‘Yeah Smash Mouth do some good ska music’, Astro Lounge isn’t the Smash Mouth album for you, but it’s definitely the Smash Mouth album for me. It does get a tiny bit ‘iffy’ in places, particularly the increasing punk feel towards the last few tracks, but overall, this was a damn good album, unlikely to be one I’ll return to regularly, but definitely worth another listen every once in a while.
dan le sac Vs Scroobius Pip – Angles
About as far from the standard hip-hop album as you could get, this first release from the DJ-MC combination dan le sac and Scroobius Pip is stunningly unique, with Scroobius Pip being quite possibly the best poet and lyricist I’ve ever heard the work of, and dan le sac being a seemingly God-given match for him musically. This is an album that literally ‘speaks to you’, it tells a story as well as it makes you want to dance.
The Good: Hip-hop isn’t a genre I dip my toes into very often, which is a shame because, if there wasn’t enough already, this is a final piece of proof that it’s a genre that really deserves exploring much more than it is by a lot of people, myself included. This album fuses Scroobius Pip’s genius spoken-word poetry with impressive and skilled synth, sample, and glitch-beat based backing from dan le sac. This pair know how to tell a story, how to create an atmosphere, and how to give out positive advice astonishingly, from a genre not often associated with a positive moral message. Serious moral prose aside, there’s still plenty of room made for fun on this album. It’s got something for anybody with half a heart.
The Bad: The only weaknesses I’ve found have been the points that don’t feel like they’ve evolved enough. Most of the material in thse tracks was from Scroobius Pip’s previous album, ‘No Commercial Breaks’(which, as a raw album was pretty poor), remixed and re-recorded. This was a vast improvement, although some tracks seem to have been given a lot more work than others. Although most of this album is excellently refined and detailed there are undeniably places where, if all you want to do is sit down and get on with something, you’ll be distracted. If you want to listen to something to take your mind off things, this won’t be it, this album makes you think. And, if you want something to send you to sleep at night, this won’t be that either. Parts of this album are noisy.
The Unique: This isn’t just hip-hop, I’ve never really heard anything like it. Mash-up beats and chip-tune-esque synth and sample parts aren’t things you really hear in the genre, that on its own is entirely new to me, but it’s the writing that really stands out. How often to you hear songs where the rapper is narrating a ‘Letter From God to Man’, telling the same story of a teens suicide from 5 different ‘Angles’ in each verse, begging his girlfriend not to commit suicide, or describing Tommy Cooper’s death as the most beautiful event in history? I’ve never heard any of these things. Maybe I’ve just not been paying attention, but I really don’t think there’s anything else like this out there
Favourite Tracks: There is a clear divide between the songs I like and the songs I love on this album. I like all of it, but I love ‘Fixed’, where dan le sac mashes up Dizzee Rascal’s ‘Fix Up, Look Sharp’ and Pip rants about how hip-hop has been popularised into an artless industry; ‘Angles’, where Pip tells the story of a teen boy who commits suicide after being beaten by a security guard, leaving his elder brother distraught who proceeds to stab the guard, landing him near death in hospital, to an electronic beat and pulsing synthesised sound-scape; ‘Letter From God to Man’, where Pip, narrating on behalf of God, talks about his disappointment with mankind for ‘manipulating his teachings for their own personal gain; ‘Magicians Assistant’, where Pip tells the story of the consequences on himself, and the friends and family of his girlfriend should she commit suicide; ‘Thou Shalt Always Kill’, essentially a rant from Pip dictating how people should live their lives, rather furiously, ending with a hectic chip-tune instrumental section and ‘Waiting for the Beat to Kick In’, where Pip tells the story of a dream where he met a plethora of people whilst roaming the streets, each offering a valuable piece of moral advice.
This has overtaken every single rap or hip-hop record I have ever heard as my absolute favourite. I quite honestly consider this album absolute genius, and a piece of art. Even in their lives gigs, dan le sac and Scroobius Pip interchange their songs with friendly banter with the audience and each other, and serious political promotions and messages. No matter who you are, you need to hear this, and pay attention to it. An absolute recommendation from me.
Jurassic 5 – Jurassic 5
One of my favourite hip-hop artists ever, these guys, to me, encompass everything that hip-hop should be. Released on the 1st of December, 1998 (wow, my 5th birthday), before the rap ‘revolution’ led by the likes of 50 Cent and Eminem, this is the part of the hip-hop scene that I enjoy the most. I grew up listening to hip-hop more than anything else, and it really is a shame I didn’t hear this way before I did.
The Good: Creative, fun lyrics, innovative use of samples and great drum and bass work all make this album a good listen. But more than anything else, what I find attractive with these guys is the move away from the ‘gangster’ scene. The lyrics aren’t about how fly the rapper is, how many cars he has, how much money he’s stolen, how many people he punches, or how many girls he gets. It’s both a welcome and deserved break from the hip-hop I’ve heard all too much of.
The Bad: For me, there isn’t as much potential for repeated listening as I’d like there to be. Part of this probably comes from the fact that the album is only 37 minutes long, I prefer my albums a good 20 minutes longer than that in most cases. Additionally, for some rap and hip-hop fans, this is just too friendly and upbeat, and won’t be what you’re looking for. Not much can be said for the sung vocals in the choruses of this album, either.
The Unique: There’s an almost unparalleled refreshment in hearing hip-hop as melodic, upbeat and cheerful as this. I really like how there’s quite a lot of the rapping done by multiple vocalists at a time, there’s not enough of this sort of style around in hip-hop.
Favourite Track: There simply isn’t enough music on this album to merit a selection, but my favourite track on here is ‘Concrete Schoolyard’.
This is quite simply an excellent hip-hop album. This is one to consider if you’re not normally a big fan of rap music, the things that normally scare people away from the genre as a whole aren’t really present here. If you have half an hour spare, give it a listen, it’s well worth your time.
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Blood Sugar Sex Magik
Released in 1991, this is by far my favourite RHCP album. From start to finish, I love it, it’s just one of those albums I can’t listen to enough times. Every single listen is thoroughly enjoyable. Their fifth release, and their second featuring Smith and Frusciante, this album has received countless awards and accolades, and I’m sure I’m not alone in calling this RHCP’s magnum opus.
The Good: This is one of those albums that immediately jumps down your throat with everything it wants to say, and no prizes for knowing what that is. Most of the subject matter is indeed, sex, but this doesn’t say anything about lyrical quality. The writing is genius, provocative and humbling at the same time. This album has songs to make you smile, laugh, dance, cry, and do unspeakable things to the nearest person of the appropriate gender, and I’m pretty confident I’ve done all of those things whilst listening to it. Kiedis really has his vocals at their best here, Flea and Smith not only fill the rhythm section perfectly, but provide outstanding music, perfectly fitting with each other, and with the rest of the group. Both Flea and Frusciante are quieter than you’d expect, not to say they aren’t noticeable. All four musicians perform to their very best, synchronised perfectly throughout. That makes this album something special.
The Bad: There are times in which this album can be intimidating. The sexual innuendo in this album, at many points, ceases to be innuendo, and ends up just talking about sex, probably not so good to be playing around your 10 year old children. It’s aggressive in everything it does, and there aren’t really any subtleties, nothing is left to work out. Those used to more guitar-led rock, including previous RHCP albums, may well come to be disappointed by this one. There aren’t many big, heavy riffs to pull you straight in. There’s always a lot happening, and it might take some a little more focus to be drawn into it.
The Unique: This album was pretty ground breaking, even today you’d be hard struck to find an album that incorporated as many different styles as effectively. Funky bass, both rapped and sung vocals, reclusive and textured guitar work that every so often bursts into classic-rock styled solos, inventive and fitting percussion, even a couple of acoustic guitar backed love-ballads. It’s got something for any rock fan.
Favourite Tracks: Difficult. There isn’t a song on here I dislike. However, if I had to pick 5, they would be Mellowship Slinky in B Major, Sir Psycho Sexy, Under the Bridge, Apache Rose Peacock and Give it Away.
Whether you like it or not, you’ve got to appreciate this album. For me, this album has no competition for the best coming from Red Hot Chili Peppers, and is an excellent contender for one of my favourites of all time, and would without a doubt be in my top 10.
Jaytech – Everything is OK
This is the first full album released on the Ajunabeats owned record label, Ajunadeep. They’ve released a good number of remixes before and since this, focusing on house and trance music. This is a fairly simple record, released in 2008, it’s a straight-up summer dance album. Basic, repetitive house beats throughout, but as always, it’s the subtleties that make all the difference here, and I love it. I stumbled across this a few days ago, and I’ve pretty much been listening consistently since then.
The Good: Long, constantly evolving techno tracks, upbeat and cheerful more-than-less throughout. Rising and falling soundscapes, occasional, distorted and echoed vocal samples and excellent looped bass lines all make this an absolutely euphoric listening experience. This is the kind of album you want to hear when you’re taking a walk through the hills on a warm, sunny day in the middle of summer, sometimes it even feels a little romantic, a rare trait in such in-your-face beats.
The Bad: Make no mistakes on thinking this is a good album for an introduction to electronic music. If your favourite band is Metallica, I can say with great certainty this album won’t be your thing.
The Unique: The basic style of this is nothing new, but it’s rare that you hear anything pulled off as skilfully as this.
Favourite Tracks: Highway Rockers and Pepe’s Garden were the songs that grabbed me immediately, and I later picked up Gray Horizon, Vela, Groove Nova and Solero, which I enjoyed, too. It is kind of hard to pick tracks off here, I tend to find that if I’m in the mood for one track, I’ll enjoy listening to the rest of the album, too.
Not really that much to say about this album I suppose. I really, really enjoyed it, I loved it, and I’ve never been a massive house fan. I can see myself seeking out a lot more after hearing this, though. My expectations are high. This is a really happy, light-hearted album, and has made many of my past few days. If you’re a fan of electronic music, and enjoy electronic festivals and nightclubs, give it a listen.
I am Max, or Jeremy, if you want. And this is my music blog. Here I will be posting reviews, that is, my opinions on albums suggested to me, and from these, compiling a list of 250 of my favourites. There are things I like, and there are things I don't, and my taste is different from yours, but I am open to any and all suggestions. Most of all, I want this to be a point of communication between myself and the rest of Tumblr.
Special thanks to-
for inspiring me to create this blog.