Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Johnny Winter – Step Back (2014)

Posted: September 6, 2014 in Uncategorized

johnny-winter-step-backWhen you think about the blues, you rarely conjure up an image of a skinny albino hippie from Texas covered with tattoos, but that’s exactly what you get with the legendary Johnny Winter.  While his visual doesn’t exactly fit the mold of great blues artists from the past, his 40-year/30 album career proves that his music does. Renowned by old-school blues greats and up and coming revivalists alike, Winter’s aggressive, unpolished approach to his craft became a signature that fans all over the world grew to love, admire, and respect.

When Winter died unexpectedly a few months back (at the age of 70), it left an gaping void in the international blues community. Step Back is his final studio album, and it follows his 2011 release Roots in paying tribute to his various blues influences. Like Roots, the album is filled with guest appearances from all over the blues world.  Eric Clapton, Ben Harper, Billy Gibbons, Joe Perry, Dr. John, Leslie West, Brian Setzer, and Joe Bonnamassa all lend a hand in recording some of the greatest, if not at least most well-known, blues songs of our time.

Produced by Winter’s guitarist, Paul Nelson, the album is full of gritty, soaring guitar, the kind of straightforward blues-rock style Winter has always been known for. What stands out more than anything is that it’s obvious over his last two albums that Winter still found joy and excitement in it all, and he went out playing perhaps as well as he ever had, having learned the nuances of these classic blues songs inside and out. Highlights here include versions of Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Mojo Hand” (with Aerosmith’s Joe Perry), Bobby Bland’s “Don’t Want No Woman” (with Eric Clapton), Fats Domino’s “Blue Monday” (with Dr. John), and my personal favorite,  Gatemouth Brown’s “Okie Dokie Stomp” (with Brian Setzer). Even with such a star-studded who’s-who on board, it’s still Winter’s show. Johnny – for the most part – puts his guest musicians in their place by out-dueling and outshining them, but all in good fun.

There are a few issues with this record – the production wasn’t amazing, the playlist seems a bit vanilla at times, and nothing here is innovative or particularly startling – but it’s hard to be overly critical here due to Winter’s demise and the huge impact he had on the modern blues scene.

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Ben Harper, when asked about his participation on the album said, “The blues means everything to me, and Johnny Winter meant everything to the blues.”

“There is not one note, lick or riff I will ever play that doesn’t owe an unpayable debt to Johnny Winter. I play the way I play because I couldn’t play like Johnny Winter.

“While simultaneously breaking musical and cultural barriers, he was one of the ordained architects who went on to define the blues not only for generations, but for an entire genre. As an artist, he played and sang with a rare and unparalleled urgency and sincerity that requires musicians of all stature to listen and learn. As a producer, Johnny Winter was the gatekeeper whom Muddy Waters entrusted to further his own sound. That says it all.

“Johnny Winter was the gospel truth, one of the rare and hallowed musical pillars of the blues. Tonight I’m gonna play Johnny Winter real loud in my house, then try to cop a lick or two of his and once again wonder, ‘How on Earth did he play that!?’”

It’s comforting to know that Winter went out in peace with the blues and his legacy, and most importantly, without his skills diminishing. While Step Back doesn’t always match the tenacity set forth early in his career, it is a defining collection of friends and classic blues tracks that are as grand of a send-off as Winters could have hoped for.

Rest in peace, Johnny. The world is a little less cool without you.

 

August Rocks

Posted: July 27, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

 

webSmack dab in the middle of summer, and here we are – dripping with sweat, anxious for the kids to get back to school and actually looking forward to the cooler temperatures the next couple of months promise to deliver. In the midst of the summer heat, summer music is sizzling as well. Walk in to your record store this week and just take a look at the names that are being featured as the soundtrack to the summer. Among all the newcomers and one hit wonders, some pretty impressive names are owning the end-caps and chart positions (hell, even Weird Al Yankovic just scored his first number one album on the Billboard charts), proving that great musicians and great music will always be around – and may just be appreciated now more than ever.  Here’s a few you won’t want to miss.

 

 

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Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Hypnotic Eye (July 29)

Outside of such icons as maybe Bob Seger and Bruce Springsteen, no one has a louder voice in Americana rock more than Tom Petty. With over 80 million records sold over the course of his career, Petty has established himself as one of music’s greatest names and truly defines the blues-induced midwestern rock he’s been known for since the late 70s. His latest album, Hypnotic Eye, sticks to the formula that brought him to the dance – with no frills, no tricks, and no excuses.

Right off the bat, the opener “American Dream Plan B” sets the tone for the disc. It immediately feels a little heavier than you might be expecting – but that’s not a bad thing. After countless albums and a long, historic career one wouldn’t blame Petty for maybe dialing-one-in and resting on his laurels, but instead it feels like he truly has something to say. Something with a little more message than in the past.

While I’ve never considered Petty to be political and opinionated in a lot of his lyrics, this album is filled with strong sentiment and messages – both straightforward and subliminal – throughout. Tracks like “Power Drunk” and “Shadow People” should – and will – rattle your social conscience while “Sins of My Youth” is an outpouring of introspection that you can’t help but parallel to your own existence – and that’s not the kind of stuff I’m used to dealing with on a Tom Petty album. Fortunately, though, the lyrical overload doesn’t take anything away from the loose, free-flowing music along the way. After all, it’s still a Heartbreakers record, and that pretty much guarantees a lot of toe-tapping and air-guitar strummimg.

In an era when electronic gadgetry and studio magic tricks are all the rage, it’s nice to have a no-nonsense rock record that feels genuine and grounded. It’s what Tom Petty has always been, and exactly what Hypnotic Eye is – which is exactly why you should cherish it.

8/10

 

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Godsmack – 1000 HP (August 5th)

Sully Erna and Godsmack have been quite the enigma since breaking through on to the scene in the late 1990s. After firing off album after album of critically praised releases throughout the early 200s, the band seemed to run out of gas a bit, releasing only two studio albums (IV, The Oracle) since 2006. Rumors of the bands demise have swirled over the last few years, and after a completely lackluster performance as headliners of 2011’s Rock Jam (a performance that I admittedly walked out on), the question is now out there – would anyone care about a new Godsmack album in 2014, and would it kick ass or suck ass?

Godsmack returns with 1000 HP, and as much as I wanted to hate this album, I don’t. In fact, it feels like Erna and company have absolutely refilled the tanks and placed the proverbial pedal to the metal once again. The record is filled with the adrenaline rush and voodoo creep that made such tracks as “Keep Away” and “I Stand Alone” hard rock anthems. Even the band knew they needed to get back to the roots, as Erna quips “Time to rewind/back to 1995” in the album-opening title track.

More heaviness ensues with chest pounders like “FML”, Generation Day”, and “Locked and Loaded” – laying waste to any thoughts that the band had grown soft or simply quit caring about their music. These, along with most of the rest of the album, prove that Godsmack was merely playing the role of the snake in the grass, laying quietly for the perfect opportunity to strike.

While the venom aims for the kill, the album isn’t completely filled with balls-to-the-wall fury. “Nothing Comes Easy” is a slower paced, haunting affair that sounds more like gothic rock than heavy metal, and “Something Different” is exactly that – an experimental piece with key changes and cello solos that while not necessarily a “fit” amongst the rest of the rockers shows that the band is still invested in defining a sound all their own that defies most genre-labeling.

A mere four-year absence doesn’t necessarily qualify for a “comeback”, but if you’ve been waiting as long as I have for Godsmack to start being Godsmack again, what seemed like an eternity is finally over, as 1000 HP is the album you (and I) have been waiting for.

8.5/10

 

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Ted Nugent – Shut Up and Jam! (July 15)

Chances are, the most recent thing you’ve heard from Uncle Ted hasn’t had anything to do with music.  The “Motor City Madman” has spent much of his public appearances the last few years bashing the Obama administration, calling out the LGBT movement, chastising Native Americans – and pretty much alienating everyone possible with his pro-gun/pro-conservative opinions every chance possible. This year, petitions and protesters have made his concert appearances more of a circus than the music ever did, but you can’t really blame the guy.

Nugent’s no-holds-barred approach is all he knows. Even from the early stages of his career with the Amboy Dukes, Ted’s reckless and relentless style and personality is what allowed him to carve his name in to the music industry – whether you liked it or not. Amidst all the chatter and controversy, though, it appears that Ted Nugent just may be extending the olive branch a bit with his latest effort, Shut Up and Jam!  I’m not sure if the album title is a message to his detractors, or a tongue-in-cheek reminder to himself to let the music do the talking – either way, the record is a great bi-partisan reminder of what rock and roll records should sound like.

The 12-song assault on your speakers is bonafide Nugent. Ripping guitars, wailing vocals, and proof positive that the Nuge is still one of the best in the business in delivering great rock and roll.  The riotous title track, as well as the blues-heavy “Everything Matters” rank right up there with some of Ted’s best songs, while Sammy Hagar drops in for “She’s Gone”, another great jam. Innocent rockers like “I Love My BBQ” and “I Still Believe” carry an almost-cheesy “can’t-we-all-get-along” attitude, but actually shows that Nugent is tired of being the spokesman-cum-crazy, and just wants to get back to doing what he does best – delivering repeated kicks in the ass of good old rock and roll.

Proof that sometimes the best advice comes from within.

7.5/10

Room 237 (2013)

Posted: May 2, 2013 in Uncategorized

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Even though he’s been dead for almost fourteen years, the mention of Stanley Kubrick’s name still gives any true cinema fan goosebumps.  His resume of films reads like a “greatest hits” of theater history.  I got into Kubrick’s work a very long time ago when I watched the outrageously bizarre and visionary  A Clockwork Orange (at an inappropriate age, mind you), and had to catch up with his body of work of films from the 50s and 60s. Through Spartacus, Dr. Strangelove, and 2001: A Space Odyssey one thing became immediately clear to me at my young age.

Stanley Kubrick was a cerebral genius.

Everything he touched has become a classic. Even the work towards the end of his career (Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut) were thought-provoking pieces of art that have been revered as some of the best movies of our generation.

Back in 1980, Kubrick even took a shot at the horror genre of cinema with the cold, creepy adaptation of Stephen King’s novel The Shining.  Critics hated it – most movie-goers didn’t understand it and for a while was the only real blemish on an otherwise impeccable body of work.  But that was thirty-three years ago, and over time the film has held up and had its perception changed.  Blame it on the uber-uncomfortable performance by Jack Nicholson, or the references to some of the film’s more memorable moments – but whatever the case, The Shining has become an iconic piece of film history.

So three decades later, the idea surfaced to create a documentary about the film. Director Rodney Ascher pieces together clips from the film (as well as other Kubrick films) behind narration from a number of Kubrick enthusiasts who have dissected the film through their own beliefs and interpretations. While we don’t ever catch a glimpse of any of these narrators, we get their incredibly detailed (and sometimes wildly imaginable) thoughts on the original film. The documentary  has nine segments, each segment focusing on different elements within the film which “may reveal hidden clues and hint at a bigger thematic oeuvre”.

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The connections involve everything from the genocide of Native Americans, the Nazi Holocaust, and the Apollo moon landing (among others), with the narrators supporting their claims with variables and footage from the film itself.  I found some more plausible than others, and a few extremely thought provoking.  Did Stanley Kubrick have a hidden message or two planned all along?  Unfortunately – for as intriguing as many of the theories presented were – there is really no answer.

But that’s the beauty of the film. If Kubrick were still alive, he could easily explain or debunk these opinions, but instead we are left wondering in amazement if one of movie’s greatest forces really did create more of a magic trick than he did a major motion picture.

Room 237 is made for a pretty select audience of film buffs, but was one of the most mind-bending experiences I’ve had watching a movie of this nature in a very long time. Unfortunately, the film hasn’t been penciled in for a DVD/BluRay release date as of this article, but you can watch it right now through Amazon’s video-on-demand service for a reasonable $6.99.

A small price to pay for one of the best times you’ll have watching a documentary.

Not Rated. 107 minutes.

Watch at Amazon: Here

Roger Ebert (1942-2013)

Posted: April 4, 2013 in Uncategorized

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When I first considered being a critic many moons ago, I was forced to consider my influences. I could no longer handle the money-backed drivel being published by such heavyweights as Billboard and Rolling Stone Magazine, and decided to dive head first into the world of cynicism and hate mail. But I kind of had an idea about how it would all play out thanks to one man: Roger Ebert.

I watched Ebert battle head-to-head with his enemy (and later friend) Gene Siskel on “Siskel and Ebert at the Movies” – and while their thumbs up/thumbs down rating system left little room for consideration, he taught me the valuable lesson of research. His completeness of his opinions was unmatched, and he knew every bit of what he talked about at all times. Unfortunately, this type of dedication is seemingly lost in today’s age of review blogs and music and movie websites where pretty much anyone with an internet connection has the ability to call themselves a critic and lazily attack anything that they don’t like. Up until his death, however, Roger Ebert continued to write fantastic dissections of modern cinema with a truth, wisdom and sarcastic jab that we will probably never see again.

Ebert’s health had been failing over the past ten years, suffering illnesses including thyroid cancer and cancer of the salivary gland. In 2006 he lost part of his lower jaw, and just recently had announced via his blog that his cancer had returned via a fractured hip that occurred in December.  This round of cancer would inevitably be his last, as Robert died on Thursday, April 4th at the age of 70.

His passing comes with great sadness and respect, as Roger Ebert was a true icon of the film industry, and the critical masses as well. The Social Nutwork extends their condolences to the Ebert Family, and to movie fans everywhere.

Goodbye, Roger.

 

Not since Abraham Lincoln has someone been so known for their top hat. Sure, the Monopoly Man, Mr. Peanut and Uncle Sam are all in the running, but the modern day hero of the stove pipe is legendary guitarist Slash.

As part of the groundbreaking act Guns n’ Roses (whom pretty much owned rock and roll for most of the 1990s), Slash cut his teeth during an age when rock was at its peak. While he didn’t get the immediate recognition as one of rock’s more formidable axemen (the go-to guys of the era were Eddie Van Halen, Warren DeMartini, George Lynch and others), Slash kept his eyes open to all styles and influences which shaped him into one of rock’s most versatile performers by the turn of the century.

The problem, though, was that just when Slash was at the top of his game, he didn’t really have any teammates left. GnR had long-since disbanded, the ill-timed formation of Slash’s Snakepit with former band mates Matt Sorum and Gilbey Clarke fizzled out before it really even started, and the curly-haired rocker was left holding his guitar all by himself.

This loneliness didn’t last long, though, as Slash reunited with Sorum and Duff MacKagan (also from GnR) to start a new band. The GnR chemistry was still there, but they were missing one vital part – a lead singer. After countless auditions, the band – going by the name Velvet Revolver – chose former Stone Temple Pilots singer Scott Weiland to front the unit, and the group quickly found its way back to the top of the hard rock heap. With two great albums and hundreds of great concerts, Velvet Revolver seemed poised to take on all comers, but Weiland’s battle with drug addiction derailed the band. Weiland left in 2008, and while the band has never officially “broken up”, it seems as though everyone involved has decided to move on with their careers – including Slash.

In 2010, Slash released his first official solo album featuring guest vocalists on every track. With the help of big names such as Fergie, Adam Levine, Alice Cooper, Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy Kilmeister, and Iggy Pop, the self-titled debut reached No. 3 on the Billboard album chart, but the true success of the album came in a very subtle form. Singing vocals on a couple tracks was Alter Bridge lead man Myles Kennedy (who assumed vocal duties on the subsequent tour) – who hadn’t really come into his own yet. What a difference a couple of years makes…

Alter Bridge’s latest album III absolutely blew up, and music fans (myself included) went from not knowing Kennedy to touting him as one of rock’s greatest modern singers. I was sure that after the emergence of Alter Bridge, Slash would once again be left as a man with no band, but fortunately friendships sometimes supercede the almighty dollar.

It would have been easy for Myles to concentrate his efforts towards his ‘other’ band, but instead not only offered to sing vocals on Slash’s new collection of songs, but sat down and took part in the writing process. The end result is Apocalyptic Love – and in a few short words, Slash is back.

While the last album was a complete mix of styles from track to track (mostly due to the variety of vocalists), Apocalyptic Love is far more focused as just a rock and roll record. From the opening riffs of the title track all the way down to the closing chords of Crazy Life, the album is a guitar lover’s wet dream. But it is so much more than even that.

The connection between Kennedy and Slash seems to be a match made in heaven. Both are true rockers through and through, but the combination of the subliminally soulful vocals with the underlying blues tones of the guitar parts add to almost every track along the way. Slash holds nothing back, and you get to see all aspects of his maturing style along the way.

There are the tracks reminiscent of the old Guns n’ Roses days (One Last Thrill, Hard & Fast), the down and dirty groove of Velvet Revolver (Standing In The Sun, Halo) and even a few romantic takes (Anastasia, Not For Me, Far and Away), but the album is at its absolute best when Kennedy and Slash carve their own niche. The album’s first single, You’re A Lie, is the perfect marriage of styles and showcases both performers at the top of their game. You can tell from this track alone that Slash has a renewed energy as both a writer and performer, and that attitude permeates the rest of the disc.

The album is filled with everything great about rock and roll. Unforgettable lyrics (No More Heroes), great swagger (Bad Rain), and air-guitar worthy solos (Crazy Life) – all sugar-coated with a vibe of excitement and energy that you don’t get very often in today’s modern rock scene.

I’ve listened to countless rock albums this year, but this one has a certain intangible that sinks the hook deep in your skin and pulls you along for the ride. Myles and Slash are definitely on to something with this release, so much so that I can’t wait to see what they come up with next. The chemistry between the two is off the charts, which should keep Apocalyptic Love on the charts for the rest of the year as THE rock album of 2012.

10/10

Tracklist:
01 – Apocalyptic Love
02 – One Last Thrill
03 – Standing In The Sun
04 – You’re a Lie
05 – No More Heroes
06 – Halo
07 – We Will Roam
08 – Anastasia
09 – Not For Me
10 – Bad Rain
11 – Hard & Fast
12 – Far and Away
13 – Shots Fired
14 – Carolina (Bonus Track)
15 – Crazy Life (Bonus Track)

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MySpace: Link | Wiki: Link

Love is a mysterious enigma. One that many would do anything for, and often times can’t live without. Having it can fulfill one’s life, yet the lack of it can tear your soul apart piece by piece. Just ask Marilyn Manson

As the resident weirdo of modern industrial rock, Manson built a career on the shocking, the perverse and the disturbed. The music was so good that many looked past his anti-religious themes and over-the-top antics and embraced the artist despite the controversies he seemed to create for himself.

But the oddity that is Marilyn Manson wasn’t saved for just his music. A head-scratching, short-lived relationship with actress Rose McGowan, as well as a failed marriage with fellow freak Dita Von Teese all took place while Manson was at the peak of his popularity, and it seemed that even while in love, he could continue to pull off the magic trick of staying strange while still selling records. But love is a fickle demon, and after divorcing Von Teese he found himself arm in arm with Evan Racheal Wood – which turned the master into the puppet. Not only did the succubus find herself the topic of every tabloid magazine out there (it is rumoured that Manson and Wood’s infidelity were the cause of his divorce), but she found a way to pull the imagination and spirit out of rock’s most imaginative performers. You don’t have to look any further than Manson’s last two albums (Eat Me, Drink Me and The High End Of Low) for proof that the inspiration had taken back seat to his personal life. Even the lyrical content of those albums sang to the emotional torment Manson was enduring from the whole “love” thing – and the critics and fans alike walked away in drones.

So here we are three years later, and Marilyn Manson is back with his ninth studio album – Born Villain. I wasn’t sure I could handle another album of “Dear Diary” bullshit, but the fact remains that he IS who he is, and maybe – just maybe – we would catch a song or two that would again remind us of the twisted excellence that Manson once shoved down our throat on a regular basis.

Apparently Manson has snapped out of his bleeding heart phase. If he ever needed to remember who he was, it was now – and Manson (as well as newly reunited guitarist Twiggy Ramirez) has emerged out of the darkness of emotions and stepped back in to the more familiar darkness of evil. And it’s about fucking time.

Opening the album is “Hey Cruel World.” I knew the first track was going to be hard and forceful, but all the while worried that we were getting dessert first – and the rest of the meal wasn’t going to be nearly as tasty. But as the track progressed, I realized that there was no way he would lead in with a song of this magnitude unless he was extremely confident that the rest of the album was going to hold up. And that’s what has been missing from Manson for a long time – confidence.

That attitude spills over into the disc’s first single “No Reflection,” a catchy reminder that Manson can still write great songs. The lyrics are a bit confusing (which I haven’t been able to put my finger on after at least twenty listens), but musically the track knows exactly where it is going throughout. Manson hasn’t necessarily been a “hit machine” over the years, but this one has charts written all over it.

“Pistol Whipped” is the first song that hints at relationships here, but it takes a completely different persona than in the past. The song is obviously about physically abusing a girl – which is something I neither condone nor support – but if anything shows that Manson is back to sharpening his teeth and getting back to being the controversy he thrives on, it’s here. It’s a bit slower than the first two tracks, but somehow takes the brutality of the subject matter and twists it into a sexy, perverse thrill ride.

The opening quote in “Overneath The Path Of Misery” sounds like Manson getting extremely personal, but for those of you with literary knowledge, you will recognize the quote from Shakespeare. In fact, the whole song plays out as a William vs. Marilyn showdown of Macbethian proportions, with allusions to Greek mythology thrown in for good measure. You need not be a historian to get into the track, though, as it teems of signature Manson. He may be the only artist out there that has us tapping our feet and banging our heads to lyrics of rape, murder and evil – but that’s what makes him special.

There is a minimalist approach to the aptly-titled “Slo-Mo-Tion.” It lacks in tempo and clarity, but the fuzzy, disorienting feel is perfectly placed here. It’s less a punch in the face than previous tracks, but the drip of the chinese water torture burns a hole in your head. “This is my beautiful show,” proclaims Manson, and while it’s far from beautiful, it is definitely profound.

When Manson gets down to business with his mind and lyrics, good things usually happen – and they happen times ten in “The Gardener.” The track tells the tale of the illusions we create of people we don’t even know, and then expect them to live up to those standards. Could that be a better painting of Manson himself? Twiggy shines here (as he has through most of the album) and it really seems like the two are back in synch for the first time in a long while.

There had to be a weak point coming soon, and that takes place with “Flowers Of Evil.” It starts with a good half minute of just static and noise – which was probably supposed to build the sinister vibe, but it just didn’t give me the same goosebumps as other attempts by Manson to be “spooky.” The fact that it is the weakest link in the chain on Born Villain is one thing, the fact that is still better than anything off of the last album says something, too.

“Disengaged” is a depressive track that also didn’t have the focus of previous tracks, but what I liked about it was that even though it didn’t really know where it was going, it kicked and screamed all the way. It felt like the panic and chaos one would experience being blindfolded, bound and gagged and stuffed into the trunk of a car – where you don’t know where you are going but fully understand the end result is going to be terrifying. It’s heavy on deep keyboard notes and darkness, and it works well to mix things up.

In an album filled with memorable choruses and catchy hooks, “Lay Down Your Goddamn Arms” is almost more of a review of everything good so far in the album. It doesn’t stand out on it’s own, doesn’t come across as anything too dangerous, and gets caught up in continuing the experience more than adding to it. It does its job of keeping the pace up, but you can’t help but feel like you’ve heard this track already somewhere.

For those that have only experienced Marilyn Manson through the speakers at Hot Topic, “Murderers Are Getting Prettier Every Day” probably comes off as sounding like every other Marilyn Manson song, but such is not the case. In fact, it’s one of the few “signature” sounding songs of the lot, filled with the industrial-fueled madness that made Manson the icon he is. Yes, it has the angst and fury that is easy to associate with MM’s enigmatic personality – crucnhy guitars and all – but the fact that the end of the song has a humorous take shows that even Marilyn himself can laugh at the misconceptions.

Title tracks are usually the hit-or-miss factor of most albums, and here it teeters between both extremes. The effort is so broken and disjointed at times it almost makes you feel uneasy, and that was the point. It has moments of anger, episodes of morose, yet hits melodic points along the way. If anyone could be more weird than Manson, it would have to be Manson himself, and that’s the perfect explanation of this track.

“Breaking The Same Old Ground” opens with the all-too-familiar music box creepiness, but shifts gears almost immediately from something gothic to something extremely personal. It feels oddly romantic and absolutely pathetic at the same time. Manson shows his humanity here, tossing aside his confidence for a moment of self-loathing and despair. It’s a death march of the forlorn, showing that Manson maybe hasn’t broke free from all his demons just yet – but the powerful rise of music and self-worth strengthen the track at the end showing that despite being fragile, Manson is up for the challenge.

I usually save the bonus tracks for a surprise for the consumer, but it has to be mentioned here. Manson teams up with Johnny Depp on guitar (yes, THAT Johnny Depp) for a dank rendition of Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain.” Outside of the strangeness of the collaboration, the song is interesting and amusing. I will say that when Depp joined Manson on stage at the Revolver Golden Gods Awards show last month, it pretty much saved a telecast that was drowning in a pool of its own vomit.

The final words on Born Villain is that – yes – we get back the Manson we all grew up with. It’s easily his best album in ten years, and finally cuts him free from the puppeteer’s web of strings. Where he goes from here is anyone’s guess, but for now we at least have an album of new, exciting material from one of the most interesting, vivacious artists of our generation. Some times the villain does win…

9/10

Tracklist:
01 – Hey, Cruel World.
02 – No Reflection
03 – Pistol Whipped
04 – Overneath the Path of Misery
05 – Slo-Mo-Tion
06 – The Gardner
07 – Flowers Of Evil
08 – Children Of Chain
09 – Disengaged
10 – Lay Down Your Goddamn Arms
11 – Murderers Are Getting Prettier Every Day
12 – Born Villain
13 – Breaking the Same Old Ground
14 – You’re So Vain (featuring Johnny Depp)

Buy at Amazon

MySpace: iTunes | Wiki: Link

The reclusive nature of Jack White has made it difficult over the years for us to judge his true genius. Sure – we all know of his now-defunct band The White Stripes – and many of us even followed his journeys with The Raconteours and The Dead Weather. But what do we really know about him. He’s been caught acting, producing, collaborating and writing over the years, but the truth is, we still don’t know jack.

Currently a Nashville-via-Detroit native, White has always let his music do the talking and kept to himself the rest of the time. This quiet disposition has earned him the usual criticism of being detached, polarized, and outright strange – and while a lot of that may have some merit, we finally get the opportunity to step into Jack’s unique world with his first solo album Blunderbuss.

By definition, a bluderbuss is a gun with a wide muzzle that fires scattershot, and the title couldn’t be more apt to this collection of songs from one of the most varied musicians of our time. It’s safe to say that White (through his previous projects and collaborations) is a man of many hats, and he puts them on all display throughout this album. What really comes through, though, is what is going on under the hat that makes this record so intriguing.

White has claimed “I’ve got three fathers: my biological dad, God, and Bob Dylan” and that vastness of perspective is all over Blunderbuss. The tracks vary from straight-ahead rockers to chilled-down story telling, all of which have such a dedicated, purposeful sound to them that you might just call it the “feel good album of the year” – but it’s anything but that.

Beneath the guitars and pianos and stand-up bass is a dark, morose statement that takes special attention to pick up on. White walks effortlessly through this affair, but the lyrics present a harrowing circle of vultures closing in above him. There is fear, anger, pain and torture taking place in Jack’s already-twisted mind – and the end result is a harrowing collection of songs recalling severed body parts, knifings and torture. All brought about from the journey inside a collapsing relationship.

At first thought, I assumed the lyrical content had to be about his failed marriage with the recently estranged Karen Elson, but the fact that she appears all over the record in a backing vocal role makes me think that White’s resentment and struggles are wounds far deeper than surface scratches. Either that, or he has taken the opportunity to draw upon his recent experiences and twist them into a deeper, darker tale of blood and tears laced with American Gothic imagery and good old-fashioned oddness.

The album opens with “Missing Pieces,” which borrows a prog-rock intro from Yes before giving way to a sixties-influenced rocker, highlighting White’s unmistakeable voice. Squealing guitars and Moog organ fills are the flavor of the day here, and it’s easy to get lost in the trippy, near-psychedelic vibe.

“Sixteen Saltines” gives the listener a lesson in White Stripes 101, as the crunchy guitars and pounding guitars bring back memories of earlier White songs when his sister, Meg, was along for the ride. The falsetto vocals add to the many layers of sound happening here, and it permeates the eardrums with heavy rock goodness.

Although just about every song here is about the perils of loving a woman, none are as blatant as “Freedom at 21.” White croons “She don’t care what kind of wounds she’s inflicted on me. She don’t care what color bruises that she’s leaving on me. Cuz she’s got freedom in the 21st century” – an obvious cry of someone who’s had enough female equality-driven bullshit to last a lifetime. The guitar plays low and thick, and the track stands out as one of the most original offerings of the bunch.


Nashville singer Ruby Amanfu shares the microphone on “Love Interruption,” and you catch the first glimpse of how much Music City, USA has rubbed off on the garage rocker. The sound is a throwback to old country-western with just enough of a blues coating to keep it entertaining. It’s the kind of song that becomes a classic in your mind the first time you here it, and White’s drawled vocals work perfectly with Amanfu’s.

The vocal prowess continues on the album’s title track, which is plain and simple White at his best. The instrumentation is pretty and soft, but you hardly notice it when the vocals are being thrown at you. David Bowie always seems to lose me in his songs with his charismatic vocals, and White is replicating that experience here.

“Hypocritical Kiss,” with its elegant piano opening, plays along nicely with its mid-tempo pace and moving structure. It feels, again, a little White Stripe-ish, but I think that’s mostly due to the drums getting a little looser with the high hats.

While most of the album has been pretty smooth and mellow, “Weep Themselves To Sleep” takes a stab at the grandiose with blasting pianos, complicated arrangement, and wildly episodic lyrics. It’s not what you expect, but I dare you to not be impressed.

Part of what I always admired about White was his penchant for off-the-wall style and swagger, and that encapsulates itself with “I’m Shakin’.” It’s a cover of Little Wille John’s blues classic, but Jack makes it his own with some interesting tempo shifts and a hint of doo-wop. It’s a bit of a head-scratcher as to why he would put a cover track on the album that has been so undeniably personal and telling, but it still works.

Need a little jukebox honky-tonk? “Trash Tongue Talker” is all that and more. Again, White embraces a genre that is a bit left-of-center for him and completely nails it with his sincerity and skill. It’s SO different from anything else I’ve ever heard from White that it impressed me even more than the rest of this album has.

Expanding even further, White dips his finger into a little bit of vaudeville with the experimental “Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy.” The energy and upbeat vibe is obviously something Jack picked up on from fellow-Raconteur Brendan Benson, as it sounds like more of a Benson signature than White’s. A nice break from the melancholy feeling the record had been putting off until now, and it fit perfectly.

I’ve always loved the Irish chantey – the tales of the drunken and disorderly sung along as a folk tune – and White does his own version with “I Guess I Should Go To Sleep.” It’s bound to be a great bar-closing song, and is the anthem for the uninspired. It’s pretty simple, but the interesting vocal overlays made it one of my favorite cuts on the album.

“On and On and On” is such a potpourri of instruments and styles that it’s bound to be the critical standout of the disc. If for no other reason, it shows how White doesn’t care about precision and perfection. It’s a little messy and ethereal throughout, but that is what makes it beautiful. It moves at a snail’s pace with stirring cellos, steel guitar accents and only in the last few bars crescendos to a loud, pronounced finish.

The softer, mellow mood carries over into the album’s closer “Take Me With You When You Go,” which comes across as a jam band effort with defined parts for pianos, backing vocals, brush snares and just about any other White could get his hands on. It combines just a pinch of everything presented in the albums other tracks and blends it all together in an amazing toe-tapper. Just when you think the album is going to fade off into numbness, though, White stomps his foot down and closes the track with raucous, fuzzy guitars and rock and roll vocals like only he can provide. A fantastic closing to a fantastic ride.

For those that don’t know of White, this is safe enough to be a nice introduction. The music is accessible and brilliant. But for those of us that were waiting to get inside the skin of Jack White and find out what he’s all about, we get treated to an album that is strange, contradictory, disturbed and gorgeous, and probably the perfect window into the elusive soul he is.

10/10

Tracklist:
01 – Missing Pieces
02 – Sixteen Saltines
03 – Freedom at 21
04 – Love Interruption
05 – Blunderbuss
06 – Hypocritical Kiss
07 – Weep Themselves to Sleep
08 – I’m Shakin’
09 – Trash Tongue Talker
10 – Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy
11 – I Guess I Should Go to Sleep
12 – On and On and On
13 – Take Me with You When You Go

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