Archive for July, 2012

Recently, murmurs, whispers and rumors of a new Green Day project were confirmed by the band. Fans were in for a real treat (and despisers were in for a huge headache) when the trio from California announced that they were not releasing one new album but three, “cleverly” entitled “Uno!,” “Dos!,” and “Tres!”

“Uno!’s” first single, “Oh Love,” lives up to the “power-punk” description Green Day gave the first piece of the trilogy, which is due out on September 25, 2012. The track rocks steadily with a punky riff that somewhat resmebles a slower “Rock’n Me” by the Steve Miller Band. The catchy chorus, guitar solo that replicates the melody, and relentless build up is reasonably successful, though “Oh Love” isn’t exactly the most memorable rock or even Green Day song ever released. It does, nonetheless, give hope for a simple rock record that doesn’t try to save the universe as the band’s previous records did.

Linkin Park’s newest, “Living Things”

On their newest record, Living Things, which was released on June 26, 2012, Linkin Park finally made the inevitable leap to electronic music for which everyone was just waiting around.  Linkin Park, one of the first rock bands to popularize the integration of a DJ, have often inserted electronic elements into their music, as exemplified by “Breaking the Habit” on 2003’s Meteora and “Shadow of the Day” from 2007’s Minutes to Midnight.  Nonetheless, the Californian group are of the “nu-metal” genre by nature, so more of their songs are fueled by distorted power chords and lead vocalist Chester Bennington’s roaring hooks.  Living Things takes every musical strategy and every genre with which Linkin Park ever experimented, pushes them to the next level and mashes them all together in a compact thirty-seven minutes.

“Lost in the Echo” commences the record with a clean synthesized beat and immediately displays for listeners some of the new concepts they will surely encounter, though once rapper and rhythm guitarist Mike Shinoda kicks off the lyrical content with one of the best rap verses of his career, soon accompanied by a loud and bombastic, classic Chester Bennington chorus, fans can relax somewhat.  “In My Remains” and Living Things’ lead single, “Burn It Down,” continue in the footsteps of the opener, combining keyboards, synthesizers and textures of dubstep, a recently popularized electronic genre characterized by deep basslines and explosions of fuzzy “vuh-vuh-vuhs” and “wub-wub-wubs,” with classic Linkin Park techniques, though “Lost” and “Burn” are far superior to “Remains.”

The record reaches its peak at the fourth song, “Lies Greed Misery,” which follows a similar formula to its three predecessors, but also resembles a dubstepped-out version of Meteora’s “Faint,” relying entirely on Shinoda’s raps during the verses, and Bennington’s screaming hook (less singing and more shouting on this one) on the chorus.  “Lies” is probably the tightest track on the twelve song album, acting as the only song, save maybe for “Lost in the Echo” or “Burn It Down” that leave listeners as heavily impacted as they were after first hearing some of Linkin Park’s early hits such as “One Step Closer,” “Crawling,” and “Numb.”

And then, with the end of “Lies Greed Misery,” the record’s quality begins to dwindle.  The following two tracks, “I’ll Be Gone” and “Castle of Glass” continue the typical Linkin Park sound, though they are more comparable, overall quality-wise to “In My Remains” rather then to “Burn it Down” or “Lies.”  After “Castle,” the band starts focusing too much on their newly adopted fully electronic sound.  If one were to listen to “Victimized” and “Tinfoil,” he or she would by no means be able to tell these songs had been written and performed by Linkin Park.  “Roads Untraveled,” “Skin to Bone” and “Until it Breaks” point back to “Castle of Glass” and “I’ll Be Gone:” not particularly mind-blowing tunes, though they are recognizably Linkin Park tunes. The power-ballady “Powerless,” however, ends the record on a note reminiscent of “Shadow of the Day,” and ties the lyrical themes up niceley

Living Things starts as a powerful, intriguing and experimental record that plays with new ground without straying too far from Linkin Park’s familiar sound, though about halfway through, it loses focus, which is sad, because the first four tracks are truly stellar.  Living Things, however, is still far more tightly constructed than its predecessor, A Thousand Suns, which took the term “experimental” to a whole new level.  Furthermore, though most of Living Things’ songs feature personal, metaphorical lyrics that Linkin Park are so known for as well as their layers of power-chords, the more house-music-oriented style of their new songs throws off the familiar-to-new ratio, and somewhat subtracts from the overall standard of Living Things.

In celebration of July 4th, 2012, America’s 236th birthday, The Sound Hound has compiled a playlist of what we consider the greatest and most classic American Rock songs of all time. These aren’t necessarily songs about the USA, though some of them are, but they are all favorite anthems by American bands.  These are the songs we at The Sound Hound think of when we think of American Rock bands.

 

1. American Girl – Tom Petty

2. This Land is Your Land – Woodie Guthrie

3. Like a Rolling Stone – Bob Dylan

4. More Than a Feeling – Boston

5. Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen

5. China Grove – The Doobie Brothers

6. Hotel California – The Eagles

7. We’re an American Band – Grand Funk Railroad

8. Paradise City – Guns N’ Roses

9. Born in the U.S.A. – Bruce Springsteen

10. The Summer Place – Fountains of Wayne

11. Surfin’ USA – The Beach Boys

12. Heartbreak Hotel – Elvis Presley

13. (I’m Your) Hoochie Coochie Man – Muddy Waters

14. 25 or 6 to 4 – Chicago

15. Fortunate Son – Creedence Clearwater Revival

16. Hollywood Nights – Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band

17. Purple Haze – Jimi Hendrix

18. (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right to Party – Beastie Boys

19. Bad to the Bone – George Thorogood & the Destroyers

20  Sharp Dressed Man – ZZ Top

21. Hot For Teacher – Van Halen

 

Have a wonderful holiday!

 

 

 

 

Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye in concert in 2011

For some unexplained reason, I never got around to writing an article about seeing The Godmother of Punk in September 2011 at Hunter College in New York City so here goes.

When I found an advertisement for $5 tickets to see Patti Smith at Hunter College I honestly thought I was reading a practical joke.  Smith, a singer and songwriter who began working mostly out of New York City in 1975 with her debut album Horses, who has worked with artists the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Bruce Springsteen, has been in the news a lot lately.  In 2007, the singer, songwriter, author, photographer and activist was inducted into the rock and roll hall of fame, in 2010, she published her memoir, Just Kids, about her relationship with experimental and influential photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, in 2011, Hunter College hosted an exhibition of her photographs and poetry in commemoration of the tenth anniversary of 9/11 (which was the reason for this concert) and in 2012, she released Banga, her first record in five years.

Thus, one would expect that Smith could only possibly be performing at a massive venue with an enormous backing band and the whole operation must be a big to-do.  However, Smith essentially did a favor for the college in an act of thanks for hosting her exhibit.  This small auditorium held maybe about three hundred people so we were all in for a really special experience not to mention that Smith, who played an acoustic guitar, was accompanied only by her daughter on piano and original guitarist for the Patti Smith Band, Lenny Kaye on acoustic guitar.  To be perfectly honest, I always thought that the whole concept of acoustic shows having a more relaxed, intimate feeling was a load of garbage, but boy did Smith, Smith and Kaye prove me wrong that night.  It was refreshing to see that songs often played with a many-pieced loud rock band in enormous arenas the world over also sounded beautiful with two acoustic guitars and a piano in a tiny school auditorium.  It takes a true artist to be able to work as magnificently as Patti did under such conditions.

Hence her nickname, The Godmother of Punk, Patti Smith is often considered an incredibly angry and crazed artist and her music often discusses controversial topics such as racism, isolation, anti-societal notions, and criminal activity.  However, Smith was extremely relaxed to the point of even saying, calmly, “Lenny had a terrific solo on that last song but I don’t think you guys could hear him.  Would someone mind turning up his mic, please?  Thank you.”  She performed song after song after song, frequently reading poetry (some of which related to the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001.)  Highlights of the concert were “Pis*ing in a River,” and “People Have the Power,” on which she asked the audience to sing along.  Throughout the entire performance, Smith seemed to be one with the other musicians as well as the audience.  At one point, an audience member called out saying, “One more song!” and I added, quite loudly, “Five more songs!” to which the singer laughed, responding, “How about YOU try playing five more songs?”  Such a moment would only be possible in this particular, small, intimate, beautiful setting. She then went right into her biggest hit, co-written by Bruce Springsteen, “Because the Night.”

Smith in fact, had a moment of what appeared to be stage fright during “Because the Night,” and she slurred the first verse, stopped, apologized to the audience and restarted the song, giggling nervously and giddily.  Seeing a rock immortal the likes of Patti Smith make a mistake and simply get back up without a second thought gave the whole show a truly personal and human feel.  I cannot stress enough how special this night was for me and everyone else in that auditorium.  Patti Smith isn’t considered one of the most gifted rock n’ roll stars for nothing.  I can tell you that for sure.  If you can get your hands on a ticket to see Patti, (such a feat isn’t exactly the easiest thing in the world) definitely leap on that oppurtunity.

Review: Maroon 5 – Overexposed

Posted: July 1, 2012 in Reviews

Los Angelian pop-rock band, Maroon 5, known for smash tunes such as “She Will Be Loved,” “This Love,” “Wake Up Call,” and “Moves Like Jagger,” have always longed to dominate the pop charts, rather than the rock world.  Unfortunately Maroon 5 are an alternative rock band by nature and though many rock fans consider Maroon 5 somewhat too poppy for their tastes, until recently, they were not seen as poppy enough to chart the Top 200 list. Lead singer Adam Levine, (who is often featured on songs that do chart: “Bang Bang” by K’naan, “Heard Em Say” by Kanye West, and “Stereo Hearts” by Gym Class Heroes) has tried (and in many cases succeeded) in stealing the music world’s spotlight namely by dating (and breaking up with) Russian supermodel Anne Vyalitsyna as well as becoming a coach on NBC’s popular television program “The Voice.”

In 2011, Maroon 5 collaborated with Christina Aguilera, Levine’s co-worker on “The Voice,” and released “Moves Like Jagger,” one of their most successful singles to date.  According to the band, “Jagger” is the song the band hoped they could write since their inception and it’s poppy infectiousness inspired the writing process on the next record, 2012’s Overexposed, which just emerged into the music world last Tuesday, June 26.  According to guitarist James Valentine, “Moves Like Jagger’ was the first time we ever worked with an outside writer, so we decided to try it some more on this record…This is our most ‘pop’ record ever and we weren’t shy about really going for it.”  Shameless spotlight hogging.  But, hey.  It’s good business.  There’s no denying that, especially since Overexposed has been the #1 album on iTunes since it’s release.

Overexposed is not a pop-rock record like its predecessors.  Maroon 5 have completely bridged the gap between their music and pure 2000s pop music the likes of Rihanna, Lady Gaga and Usher, but since that’s what they were going for, there isn’t an issue.  The band decided they wanted to crank out a record with only single-worthy chart-topping tunes and with that in mind, one can confidentially say that Maroon 5 absolutely nailed it.  Every song has an extremely catchy melody and hook and could absolutely, but does a series of fourteen mindless pop songs (that, granted, get mercilessly stuck in your head) make for a quality record?  Many of Overexposed’s songs, including “Lucky Strike,” “Payphone,” “One More Night,” apply the use of the disco drum beat and loud keyboards and distorted pop guitars on the chorus that give the hook a little extra “umph,” though that repetitive sound gives some of the tracks a formulaic feel.

Highlights on the album include the opener,  “One More Night,” which builds upon a slow, steady reggae rhythm, “Lucky Strike,” a dance-pop that works off of a “four chord progression” made famous by the comedy band The Axis of Awesome, “Sad,” a pretty piano song on which Levine displays his happy talent for vocal diversity, changing octaves between verses, and the closer, “Beautiful Goodbye” which is a mix of the softer, more sensitive side upon which Maroon 5 has based much of its popularity and the dance-pop that dominates Overexposed.  The one true disgrace on the album that shows that Maroon 5 have beyond sold out is rapper Wiz Khalifa’s verse on the lead single, “Payphone.”  Wiz’s verse fails to fit into the otherwise formidable pop hit both lyrically and musically.  Thematically, “Payphone,” like a lot of Maroon 5 songs, is a sad tune about heartbreak.  Khalifa, however, does not rap about losing someone and how that feels, but rather how that lost person no longer has any chance at winning back someone so fantastic as himself.  In fact, the radio version, in which a vocal bridge by Adam Levin replaces Khalifa’s verse, is significantly better than the original.

It is very clear that the band was heavily influenced by “Moves Like Jagger’s” production process. Every single song on the album is terrifically catchy and single-worthy and almost equally fun.  Perhaps Overexposed won’t go down in the history books as a fantastic and memorable release.  If you are searching for an album filled with experimental and complex instrumentation, deep lyrical content and true musical depth, Overexposed is not for you, but if you find yourself in a light mood for some fun and catchy pop songs that will get you singing their hooks for hours at a time, then definitely listen to every track on this record.