Mini Album Reviews is a collection of random thoughts on albums that I’ve listened to in the past week. It started out as a Facebook thing, but I decided to move it here and keep it updated besides the full-fledged posts.
David Bowie – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
Back when I was a kid, I used to have a very narrow-minded view of the introverted and the extroverted; basically, I wouldn’t accept that a person could be both. Because I thought of myself as undoubtedly belonging in the first category, it was the artists that gave an aura of introvertism that I was the most attracted to. Listening to Bowie and watching clips of him turned that idea on its head – here was an artist that was charismatic and flashy, and at the same time, insightful and well worth studying. He had form and substance. I’ve since accepted that the two can co-live together, of course, but for the longest time I couldn’t figure what makes Ziggy Stardust so special for me. I think it’s just that, the fact that one can enjoy this album both for empty-headed pleasure, blasting at full volume in the background, or closely listen to it with headphones on and everything else shut down, depending on the mood.
AC/DC – Back in Black
People blame mainstream hip-hop lyrics for being sexist and offensive, but man, do AC/DC reach an all-time low in terms of that. Back in Black features classic lines such as “She told me to come but I was already there” (get it??), “Let me put my love into you babe” (subtle) or my favorite, “She’s using her head again/I’m just giving the dog a bone” (OH GOD WHY). Thinking that no less than 50 million people sang along with those lines at one point or another since the album’s release is kind of a worrying image. And I know what you’re gonna say, this is a hard rock record, who gives a damn about the lyrics? Fair enough, but the guitar riffs are not that memorable either – the title track and Hell’s Bells are classics, but the rest never live up to those two. I would nominate Aerosmith’s Rocks for the title of defining hard rock masterpiece any day over this, an album superior on every front to these ears.
The Beatles – The Beatles (White Album)
At gunpoint, I would say that the only real issue I have with The Beatles as a band is that I don’t think they ever were the best at something in particular. Many of their contemporaries focused on one element and took it to the extreme – be it Bob Dylan with the lyrics, 13th Floor Elevators with the psychedelia, Cream with the instrumental virtuosity or The Beach Boys with the vocal harmonies. Naturally, these are the bands that will always split fans more than The Beatles, because extremity tends to be polarizing. On the other hand, The Fab 4 had a policy of doing pretty much everything to a certain degree and nowhere is that more evident than on their self-titled album. A sprawling masterpiece, where songs of any shape, style, length and content not only find their place, but work in perfect symbiosis with each other. I wouldn’t change a thing about it.
Love – Forever Changes
We seem to remember the musical world of 1967 with its Summer of Love movement as one of peace and joy and community and…well, just love for and by anyone involved. But looking back at the year’s most-acclaimed albums such as Love’s Forever Changes, Pink Floyd’s The Piper at the Gates of Dawn or Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow, one finds out that there always was a dark element beneath that layer. Dark themes are always lurking around the corner, and the same is true for the psychedelic drugs culture. Ironically or deliberately given their name, Love is the band that in my opinion best represented that balance of light and dark, with colorful, meticulous baroque-inspired arrangements on one hand, and cryptic, gloomy lyrics and general vibes on the other. Arthur Lee, the band’s leader, is cited as saying that Forever Changes will serve as a lament to his memory and I can totally see that.
Categories: Mini Album Reviews