Lady Gaga’s The Fame or the blatant money-grabbing extra track reissue Fame Monster is her best album and nothing she has done since has come close. There are a few tracks on Born This Way and ARTPOP that stand above the rest e.g. ‘Edge of Glory’ and ‘Dope’, but on the whole the albums are lacklustre in comparison to her debut. Perhaps it’s because she got caught up in her own celebrity or the substances she takes now are not inducing the same creativity as whatever she was taking then.
She is great performer – her rendition of ‘Dope’ recently on Alan Carr’s Chatty Man is testament to that and I hope that eventually she will get back to the brilliance of ‘Just Dance’, ‘Paparazzi’ and ‘Poker Face’. She’s a good singer and I don’t understand why she feels the need to fanny about with her ‘fashion’ and her alter-egos – she seems to be trying too hard to follow in Bowie’s or Madonna’s footsteps instead of concentrating on writing and performing quality pop.
I have three Garbage albums on CD. Their debut featuring ‘Queer’, ‘Only Happy When it Rains’ and ‘Stupid Girl’ is by far my favourite, closely followed by Version 2.0 with ‘I Think I’m Paranoid’ my favourite track. I love Shirley Manson’s vocals and her indie rock swagger. Beautiful was a bit too pop for me and only ‘Shut Your Mouth’, ‘Androgyny’ and ‘Silence is Golden’ are particular memorable.
It seemed like they were going off the boil, and then they split for a bit. Manson went on to appear as a terminator in the Sarah Connor Chronicles amongst other things, and it was nice to see her. I used to have a thing for Scottish accents and red-heads so I could forgive her wooden acting – she was playing a robot after all. Their comeback album Not Your Kind of People in 2012 was pretty good, but I can’t talk about that because I have it on MP3 not original CD. It’s taken me long enough to get to ‘G’ in my CD collection; I hate to think how long it would take to wade through my digital collection. Actually 56 days according to iTunes.
Goldfrapp started off as a weird and warbling on Felt Mountain and my favourite track is ‘Utopia’ although the album is best heard as a whole. They went all disco with Black Cherry and then last year came back around to a more indie sound with Tales of Us with its one word titles – ‘Annabel’ being my fave.
Again it is all about the vocals. If Manson is the epitome of rock chick delivery then Alison Goldfrapp’s vocals are the opposite extreme – more akin to bathing in a bath full of melted chocolate. Gaga, Manson and Goldfrapp are all sexy in their own way and I know it should be about the song not the singer, but I know my initial interest in Goldfrapp’s music was more about the mystique of her voice and her amazing head of hair than it was about the lyrics.
From the sublime to the ridiculous – Goldie Lookin’ Chain’s Greatest Hits is a very funny album with some pretty catchy hip hop tunes – ‘Guns Don’t Kill People…’, ‘Half Man Half Machine’ and the classic and addictively catchy ‘You’re Mother’s Got a Penis’ are stand out tracks for me. There’s no doubting the guys’ ear for a funny tune, but I also have to point out that most of the tracks are really well produced and do stand up to repeat listening.
For me Gorillaz got better and better as their virtual careers and collaborations went on. Gorillaz debut album for me was more interesting visually than musically (apart from the novelty of hearing Damon Albarn’s vocals out of the context of Blur) because I was a big fan of Tank Girl, although I did like all the singles from the album.
I thought at the time of its release that Demon Days was the best concept album done in a long time and I loved every track and the accompanying storyline played out in the videos and supporting multimedia items. Then they blew Demon Days out of the water with Plastic Beach. I thought and still think that it is an amazingly good album, but oddly it took me ages to get into like American Idiot by Green Day; more later. I distinctly remember initially being deplored by the direction they had taken with the album. Once I had let the album infect my mind here is what I said on Amazon. The observant among you might notice that I downloaded it as an MP3 album, but then I got it for Christmas on CD.
It’s a shame that the Gorillaz project has come to an end. I know there are similar projects in Japan, very much like those described by William Gibson in his novel idoru and perhaps there’s room for someone else to have a go at creating a virtual band in the western world. Hopefully they will be good enough to survive the inevitable comparisons to the Gorillaz as the supposed originals in the genre.
I first got into Green Day after hearing ‘Basket Case’ and have stuck with them through thick and thin all the way to the misguided Uno, Dos, Tres trilogy of albums (which I downloaded so won’t mention in this post – I think I reviewed at least one on this blog, so use the search function if you’re interested). I think they peaked with American Idiot although as previously mentioned I was shocked into disliking it initially – because it had such a different more mature rock sound. It’s now one of my favourite albums by any artist.
I love the way the songs feel interconnected and tell a story. Unfortunately I can’t say the same thing for 21st Century Breakdown which while containing some great tracks (‘21 Guns’ for instance) smacked of trying to hard to tie everything together and replicate the joy of American Idiot.
Along the way to this new sound the albums have been a little hit and miss and sometimes too short. Stand out tracks for me apart from ‘Basket Case’ are ‘When I Come Around’, ‘Geek Stink Breath’ and ‘86’ from Insomniac, ‘Nice Guys Finish Last’, ‘Platypus (I Hate You)’ and ‘Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) from Nimrod and ‘Warning’, ‘Minority’ and ‘Macy’s Day Parade’ from Warning. I did buy the albums prior to Dookie retrospectively but I found them pretty hard to listen to, particularly badly produced and I got rid.
I got into Grimes after seeing part of her video for ‘Oblivion’ on Adam Buxton’s Bug on Sky One. I liked her dreamy vocals and 80’s sounding synth reminiscent of Depeched Mode. I watched some footage on YouTube of her live on KEXP. I then bought Visions and Halfaxa. She takes the abstraction to be heard in early Goldfrapp and extrapolates it until the lyrics become rather meaningless and her voice becomes an instrument. I can understand why she has her detractors (Siggy for example thinks she is dreary rather than dreamy and Frank Zappa posted a dissy comment on one of her videos last week) but I’m a fan.
If we’re going to move into the territory of divided opinion then I saved the best until last. Guns n’ Roses have attracted much criticism over the years and while I don’t necessary agree with their views on a number of subjects I am a big fan – in the same way I wouldn’t (if I had a daughter) bring her to the slaughter or recommend anyone bites to heads of chickens I’m a big fan of Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath.
Appetite for Destruction is among my all-time favourite rock albums – it is a veritable classic. I love air guitaring to ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ and/or ‘Paradise City’ at a disco and revelling in Slash’s superb performances and Axel’s vocal talents, and every album on the track gets me singing along. The studio tracks on Lies are also great, the live tracks not so much, and I’m not sure about the logic of releasing the two volumes of Use Your Illusion with so many mediocre tracks on them. Why not just release one brilliant album and spend time making the other tracks better?
‘Live and Let Die’ is imho the best cover version of all time and I find myself immediately wanting to listen to it again when it hear it, however I really didn’t like the Spaghetti Incident and recall trading it in at a music shop when you could still do such a thing. What’s a music shop? It’s like Tesco’s but a lot smaller and it doesn’t sell anything but CD’s. Wired huh?
Chinese Democracy is a good rock album, but sounds like a different band – reminding me more of Avenged Sevenfold than Guns n’ Roses. This is no doubt due to Slash’s absence from the band, a modern more commercial metal sound and Axel’s revised vocal style. Sounds like there isn’t going to be a repeat of the balls-deep glory of Appetite for Destruction, but that’s okay – I’m not bored of listening to it yet; one of the reasons it took so long to get this post out since writing the ‘F’ post was my refusal to stop listening to Appetite and move on the their other albums.