Author: kaylubd

I am a writer who loves music. Both have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I love revisiting some of my favorite albums, but I also look for new opportunities to find new music, also. Besides music and writing I also like video games (one of my favorites is Saint's Row the Third) and reading.

Revisiting Blink-182’s ‘Neighborhoods’

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The disintegration of Blink-182 was a mess. Tom DeLonge was suddenly out of the band, but he never quit, yet he wasn’t coming back. It can be hard for a band to bounce back after such a public fallout, but Blink survived. No matter how you feel about their current output, you can’t say California isn’t a success. It earned them their first Grammy nod and debuted at number one in the states and in other countries. But the album isn’t anywhere near as ambitious, exciting, or progressive in sound as their comeback record Neighborhoods.

What’s most notable about the album is the continuation of the dark, mature sound found on Untitled. Lyrics tackle heavy topics like death, isolation, and personal demons. Even the upbeat opener, “Ghost on the Dance Floor” is depressing. It’s based on Travis Barker hearing a song that reminded him of the late DJ AM. “Wishing Well” sounds like something to dance to, yet the lyrics paint a bleak picture: “I went to a wishing well, and sank to the ocean floor/Cut on the sharpened rocks, and washed up along the shore/I reached for a shooting star, it burned a hole through my hand/It made its way through my heart, have fun in the promise land.”

They also experiment with their sound, with each member bringing in their own influences. DeLonge’s influence is the strongest with songs like “Ghost on the Dancefloor,” The Cure-esque “This is Home,” and the lackluster “Love is Dangerous.” Each has elements you can trace back to Angels & Airwaves. Whereas the intense “Hearts All Gone” sounds like a b-side from +44. For the most part, these different influences work together well and result in songs that ultimately sound like Blink-182. Though the lackluster “Love is Dangerous” is DeLonge all the way. It’s so bogged down in synth and New Wave sounds it doesn’t fit on the album.

But the record isn’t without its flaws. The band recorded most it separately and it shows. It feels disjointed and clunky in places. It just doesn’t recapture the spark they were aiming for. It’s more of a growing pains record. It seemed they still had some things to work out before heading back in the studio. But considering the record we got, it could’ve been worse. Also, some songs are forgettable like the terribly named “MH 4.18.2011.” It has the same high energy and quick pace of “Here’s Your Letter,” but otherwise it doesn’t manage to be that memorable. The song is okay, but it’s not as strong as the others.

Fortunately, the album is solid. The excellent “Natives” has a frenetic guitar riff and pounding drums that grabs your attention since it has more of a punk rock vibe. It sounds the most like a classic Blink-182 song and feels like something from their self-titled record. “Up All Night” is another satisfying track reminiscent of their older stuff. The music is hard-hitting and punches you in the gut. It’s an intense ride that gets into their dark side with the mention of demons and dying alone. “Snake Charmer” is another highlight with its slinky rhythm and pummeling riff. It has a hypnotic vibe that’s hard to resist. And the catchy “Kaleidoscope” blends dirty riffs with an upbeat, bright riff.

Similar to their previous output, the album divided fans. While some championed the mature sound, others balked at the lack of catchy pop-punk jams that made them famous. Rather than revisiting the past, Blink looked to the future and continued the mature sound they explored on their 2003 output. Did it work? Sort of. While there are several standout songs, it sounds disjointed and lacks some of the fun that made their other albums great.  Still, the experimentation and their continued mature sound showed they were at least trying to progress whereas California feels like a step backward. It’s generic and bland. At least Neighborhoods sounds like a band trying to make things work. It showed promise for a new chapter of Blink-182 that, sadly, we never got around to seeing.  We have a subpar version of them instead.

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Mixed Up Deluxe – The Cure

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Release Year: 2018

Rating: 7.5/10

In 1990, The Cure wanted to take a break from the bleak nature of Disintegration. To shake off the melancholy, Robert Smith launched a new project: a remix album. Mixed Up not only featured club mixes of Cure songs, it was also a way for fans to get their hands extended mixes without hunting down pricy singles. This year, Smith finally relaunched The Cure’s remaster series and compiled a deluxe edition of this remix album. Surprisingly, I was excited to get my hands on the release despite not being a fan of the original. I wasn’t expecting much, but I actually enjoyed the release more than I expected, but it’s not perfect.

The first disc is a remaster of the 1990 original featuring extended singles and remixes of the band’s biggest hits. There are some solid mixes here like the airy and mellow version of “The Caterpillar” and the jazzy version of “Close To Me,” but most of the songs don’t hold your attention for long. It’s made with a specific audience in mind. If you’re not a fan of lengthy club mixes, like me, the album won’t do much for you. I found songs like “The Walk,” “Lovesong,” and “A Forest” to be too long. They got repetitive after the first four minutes. The drawn out songs make sense in a club setting, but they don’t really translate outside of that if remixes aren’t your thing. Most of the mixes are decent, aside from the generic “In Between Days (Shiver Mix),” but little about them leaves a lasting impact. I found myself getting bored with them and started tuning them out. The updated versions of “Lullaby” and “Fascination Street” are highlights, but the rest of the album is decent at best.

I was looking forward to the second disc featuring rare remixes from 1982- 1990, but these tracks are forgettable. Some of the mixes are random, disjointed, or all over the place. The vocal on “Let’s Go To Bed (Extended Mix 1982)” sounds like it was chopped up and sprinkled randomly throughout the song. It’s annoying to hear Smith’s vocals start and stop abruptly. “Why Can’t I Be You” feels endless with bits of the song stretched out and played on a loop, while Primary (Red Mix 1990)” attempts to turn it into a high energy rock song with bits of weird buzzing noises, but it just doesn’t work. Mixes of “Pictures of You,” “Just One Kiss” and “Just Like Heaven” do nothing interesting expect make the intro and outro longer. Even though I’m not a fan of the original, the mixes on that album are at least decent and has its great moments. Here, all the remixes are uninteresting. They just don’t hit you the way some of the mixes on the previous and the last disc do.

The third disc, Torn Down, is full of new mixes by Smith and is the highlight of this collection. He takes a song from every Cure album and tweaks it just enough to give it a different flavor. “The Drowning Man” is bleaker and darker, “A Strange Day” is more intense with its tribal beats, “A Night Like This” is jazzy and upbeat, and “Three Imaginary Boys” is downright eerie. These mixes feel more focused and concise. They don’t keep going well after you’re bored. And in most cases not much changes. Smith admits he didn’t mess with the songs too much and kept the general feeling of the song. “Shake Dog Shake” sounds more aggressive and angry and “Never Enough” sounds like a clean mix, but otherwise they don’t stray far from the originals. Others may balk at the lack of change, but I found them to be perfect. It puts a different spin on the song and doesn’t feel needlessly long. Smith also goes beyond the singles and mixes tracks like “Cut Here,” “From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea,” and “The Last Day of Summer” for a more diverse listening experience. It’s great to hear new versions of tracks like “Want” and “Like Cockatoos.” It’s a chance to highlight The Cure’s material outside of their singles. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much out of this disc, yet it’s my favorite out of the three.

Mixed Up Deluxe isn’t for everyone. It’s for a niche crowd that can appreciate a good club mix or for those into the club scene. If you don’t care for remixes or don’t like dance music, then you won’t find most of the collection appealing. Still, it’s a solid release. You have all of The Cure’s once rare mixes on one disc with extras and a disc full of new remixes. It’s worth it for the third disc alone. It doesn’t feel like it was put together to make a quick buck. Rather, you can tell it was crafted with some thought and it invigorated Smith to try some new versions. Also, there’s so much material to listen to, there’s bound to be one or two tracks you find yourself nodding along to. It’s not for all Cure fans, but it’s still a great addition to your collection. 

Playlist: Best Songs of 2018 So Far…

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Each year I always look forward to what music has in store. Whether it’s discovering a new band or listening to old favorites, there’s always something to look forward to. 2018 isn’t over yet, but there have already been some great songs I’ve kept on repeat. So before we look forward to music coming out this fall, let’s look back at the stellar songs released so far. Here are my picks for the best songs of 2018 so far.

Marmozets – “Lost in Translation”

Marmozets are one of the best rock bands you’re not listening to. They released their second album, Knowing What You Know Now, earlier this year and it’s on my list of top albums of 2018. It was hard to choose just one song, but “Lost In Translation” shows off their energy, hard driving sound, and their growth as a band. It’s pummeling beat and bouncy riff pumps you up and the underlying groove gets you moving. Everything crashes during the hook hitting right in the chest, but you’re too busy headbanging to notice. There’s a great swagger and cockiness to the song that instantly pulls you in. It also shows why Becca Macintyre is a stellar vocalist. She doesn’t just yell and scream. She plays around with her voice manipulating its range depending on the song’s tone. It’s only one of many great songs from an amazing album. I highly recommend it.

Pale Waves – “The Tide”

I like Pale Waves, but even I don’t understand their rabid fanbase. After listening to their debut EP and seeing them live, I really don’t understand what’s got fans so crazy. They’re not really doing anything new; they sound like 1975, who sound like bands from the 80s like INXS. But when I hear the opening riff of this song, I instantly start dancing. It’s so bouncy and upbeat and the hook of “I’ll be the sea honey/always, always/and you’ll be the tide” will be stuck in your head for days. It’s fun to listen to and makes you feel good even though the lyrics are a bit gloomy. It may not be the best song I’ve heard this year, but it’s one I can’t stop singing.

Night Riots – “Colour Morning”

The first new track from Night Riots since Love Gloom falls very much in tune what they dubbed their “gloom pop” sound. There’s a melancholy air to the song mixed with a hint of pop and alt-rock. From the soft plucks of the opening guitar to Travis Hawley proclaiming “Goddamn what a beautiful world” it sounds pretty and mellow even though it’s seemingly about lost love. It has a dreamy, atmospheric mood similar to “Breaking Free,” another stellar song of theirs. It’s not the upbeat, catchy vibe found on their EP that caught my attention, but the atmospheric music and Hawley’s sensual vocals make it one of their prettier compositions.

Dead Sara – “Unamerican”

If you think rock is dead then you obviously haven’t heard this song. Taken from their new EP, Temporary Things Taking Up Space, this is classic Dead Sara all the way. It’s got a searing riff, a dirty tone, Emily Armstrong’s gritty vocals, and an I-don’t-give-a-fuck attitude. Armstrong even squeezes a nice “Fuck you, Donald Trump” in there, though she claims it’s nothing political. It’s a hard-hitting, raw song that pumps you and makes you want to rage. Surprisingly, the rest of EP finds them moving towards an alt-rock direction, but this song shows they haven’t abandoned their hard rock roots.

Turnstile – “Generator”

Turnstile’s second album Time & Space is another hard one to choose just one great song from. The album is a blistering 25 minutes of raging hardcore that comes at you fast and hard. All of the tracks are thrilling, but the shifting sounds and moods of “Generator” stand out. Opening with a chugging metal riff, singer Brendan Yates comes out the gate swinging screaming at the top of his lungs “I’m hanging on to what I got left/picking up the pieces in the dark.” Everything is really aggressive up until the bridge where things slow down and soft singing replaces Yates’ screams. The dizzy guitar riff and pulsing beats create a trippy vibe before returning to destructive sound. This is only a sample of what Turnstile does. I highly recommend this album if you want to hear more.

Jack White – “Hypermisophoniac”

When Jack White announced his third solo album, I wasn’t very interested especially after hearing “Connected By Love.” But after giving Boarding House Reach a chance, I found it to be pretty great. It has the classic White sound we’re used to, but he fuses it with so many weird, wonderful elements like on this track. It starts with this hypnotic electronic looping. White keeps adding layers as he shows off his guitar skills and attacks the piano like he wants to hurt it. It’s a fusion of jazz, funk, rock, and blues stamped white White’s swagger that makes it an album highlight.

Franz Ferdinand – “Lazy Boy”

Most Franz Ferdinand songs are cheeky, fun, and have a hook you can’t stop singing. “Lazy Boy” from their latest album, Always Ascending, has all of these, which makes it one of the best from the LP. The music is infused with their new disco dance direction, yet still has killer riffs that they’re known for. The lyrics are straightforward and simple, but the playful way Alex Kapranos sings “I’m a lazy boy/yes a lazy boy/lazy in the morning boy” gets stuck in your head for days. It may not be their greatest song; it’s just a lot of fun to sing and dance to and manages to stand out on an album full of dance influenced jams.

The Struts – “Body Talks”

The Struts are all about having a good time and getting back to the basics of rock n roll: partying, money, and hot women. Their songs always sound like a party and it’s no different with their latest. It has everything you want in a Struts song: high energy, big hooks, and a tongue-in-cheek attitude. There’s also a hint of sexy that makes the song so tantalizing. Frontman Luke Spiller sounds seductive and playful as he sings “Oooh your body talks/your body talks.” It’s another let-the-good-times-roll anthem from The Struts that shows the fun, carefree nature of the band. If this is a taste of the new album, then I can’t wait to hear the rest.

Panic! At the Disco – “Roaring 20s”

Even though I love PATD’s debut album, I never got into their later stuff. I started checking out their recent stuff out of curiosity and was surprised how much I enjoyed Pray for the Wicked. The entire record has this celebratory, party vibe to it that’s perfectly captured on “Roaring 20s.” With its slinky rhythm and an infectious hook Urie is known for, it sounds like nothing but a good time. The lyrics suggest something darker at play, but you can’t help but dance to over the top music. Plus, it takes you back to Urie’s baroque pop days, which pleases longtime fans like me. It’s just fun to listen to, while the entire album makes you feel good. If you need a pick me up, then you should check out Pray for the Wicked.

Hit Bargain – “Tourist II”

Hit Bargain’s Potential Maximizer wasn’t on my radar when it came out in May, but when it was recommended to me I was hooked. A playful, yet poignant hardcore record, it’s one of the most thrilling and exciting releases of the year. All the songs grab you by the throat and start pummeling you, but my favorite is “Tourist II.” Singer Nora Singh sounds cocky and playful as she sings and the bouncy opening riff sucks you in. The intense, hard driving music and Singh’s piercing screams sound like chaos incarnate. The song is bursting with energy and attitude, which is all over their debut album. Be sure to check them out if you want a riveting and exciting good time.

The Cure – “Drowning Man (Bright Birds Mix 2018)”

When The Cure announced a reissue of their 1990 remix album Mixed Up along with a disc of new mixes titled Torn Down, I wasn’t expecting much. I’m not a fan of the original album and didn’t have a lot of faith in the new mixes. Surprisingly, I was impressed with the 2018 remixes with this one standing out. Robert Smith messes with the song enough to put a different spin on it without changing it completely. He managed to make this song sound more bleak and depressing and if you’re familiar with the original you didn’t think it could get any darker. The sweeping music and layered vocals that wail like a spirit makes it more somber. He amps up the melancholy and Gothic tone making a chilling and unforgettable experience.

Con Brio – “Heart Shaped Box”

Nirvana songs aren’t sexy, but Con Brio turned this grunge classic into a slow jam. Instead, they turn the song on its head with a healthy dose of funk and soul. Singer Ziek McCarter sounds sensual as he sings, which is weird for a Nirvana song. It’s almost like Michael Jackson decided to cover this Nirvana classic. You wouldn’t expect the soulful rendition to be any good, yet it’s one of the most unique and top-notch covers I’ve heard. And I’m really picky when it comes to Nirvana cover. It may not be for all fans, but at least Con Brio did something unique with the song and managed to really make it their own.

Gorillaz – “Humility”

Yacht rock is usually reserved for the lite radio station your parents love and Christopher Cross. But when Gorillaz put their own spin on it, it’s a summer jam. The first offering from The Now Now gives us a different, breezy vibe than what we heard on Humanz. The music is mellow and smooth with a hint of jazz flair thanks to guest collaborator George Benson. Damon Albarn’s soothing vocals complete the relaxing mood. It’s so easy going it sounds like it was made for summer. Imagining listening to this chilling on the beach or out on the road. It makes you feel good, which is what we all need right now.

Which songs have you been jamming to this year? Let me know in the comments!

Dead to the World – Marilyn Manson

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Release Year: 1996

Rating: 7.5/10

Marilyn Manson’s Dead to the World tour was infamous for its controversial stage antics, anti-Christian rhetoric, and the ire it drew from religious groups. On any given night, fans could expect to see destruction, trashing the Bible, and self-mutilation on stage. Rumors of sacrificing animals and abusing fans spread quickly and helped make Marilyn Manson the most hated band in America. The debauchery, chaos, destruction, sex, and violence was captured on their first video release, Dead to the World. It offers a glimpse into the brutal show, what goes on backstage, and trying to understand who Marilyn Manson is.

The video is a mix of live performances from the Dead to the World tour and weird backstage footage and interviews with the man himself. It opens with various religious groups protesting outside of shows talking about the evil Marilyn Manson will bring. It’s a fascinating spectacle to witness. To think music caused such a strong reaction. These groups thought Manson was so evil their fans clearly needed saving. It’s amazing to see them freak out over one guy in makeup. It’s something we don’t see in current music anymore unless it’s a bunch of people tweeting angry messages. It really shows the power of his music and the effect it can have on people both good and bad.

From there the rest of the exclusive footage is backstage antics and random bits filmed by the band’s cameraman. It ranges from fascinating to incoherent. The candid interviews with Manson offered (at the time) a rare glimpse at the man beneath the makeup. His horror stories about being teased in Catholic school and finding an aborted fetus in a coffee tin when he was young give a bit of insight to the way he is. It’s a way to try and understand his worldview. These stories are well known among fans now, but at a time when we really wondered if he had his ribs removed, it gave us a look at the mysterious artist.

Most of the footage is clearly meant to get a reaction. It’s a collage of random clips thrown together meant to depict tour life for the band. This includes copious amounts of drugs, lots of drinking, and sex. Shots go from women touching themselves to the band doing drugs to being destructive backstage. Sometimes we get shots of fans, like the infamous slashers, which Manson expresses his discomfort for, but a lot of it is weird stuff you can barely make out. Maybe it would’ve been shocking 10 years ago, but it doesn’t have the same effect now. It’s meant to be shocking, yet it’s trying too hard. Most of it makes you roll your eyes with exhaustion. Now, it seems incoherent and confusing made even worse by the poor video quality.

The best bits are the performances. The video includes highlights from the tour like “The Beautiful People,” “1996,” “Lunchbox,” and “Apple of Sodom,” which he rarely performs. This is peak Marilyn Manson. It’s easy to forget what a force he was on stage when you hear about him stumbling around drunk in concert now. The shows were like a chaotic, demented circus with Manson stomping around on stilts for “Kinderfeld,” ripping up the Bible during “Antichrist Superstar,” and cutting himself on stage not even acknowledging his chest covered in blood. It’s exhilarating to watch him unleash his fury. It’s nothing but pure chaos and anger as the band smashes things, shove each other, and, sometimes, simulate oral sex. No wonder parents were afraid of this band.

The video ends with backstage footage of a bloodied Manson fuming over a stage mishap and the band being destructive (and sick) in general. It’s the typical type of debauchery you expect when rock stars have too many drinks. The most disturbing bit comes in the final moments when the screen fades to black and we hear Manson screaming at a young girl to shut up and sit still followed by her blooding curdling screams. This is an excerpt from a short film Manson made called “Groupie.” A film so disturbing and vile, his manager told him it would destroy his career if he ever released it.

Dead to the World is still a fascinating look Marilyn Manson’s most controversial period. Parts of it are weird or try too hard to be shocking, but it gives viewers an inside peek at this chaotic tour. At a time when people thought he was killing animals at his concerts, it’s a way to depict what actually happened. Manson even alluded to this in the video saying he wished more parents would let kids see the show. The performances are top notch and the candid moments with Manson are intriguing. With his latest antics, you forget Marilyn Manson was once the most hated band in America. This video shows why and it’s one hell of a ride. It’s weird, confusing, thrilling, and a little disturbing much like early Marilyn Manson. Let’s just hope it gets an HD re-release soon.

Young Lore – Night Riots

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Release Year: 2013

Rating: 7.5/10

Night Riots’ music is so irresistible, catchy, and charming. Listening to their songs, you can’t help get in a good mood while singing along. Though they gained notoriety with their 2016 EP Howl, they reinvented themselves with 2014’s Young Lore EP. While it isn’t a drastic departure from their current sound, it has a different mood. One that’s slow, somber, and not as fun. It definitely shows a band finding their style.

The best track here is “Back to Your Love.” Sounding similar to the direction they would move in later on, the song is upbeat, bouncy and bright with Travis Hawley sounding lovelorn as he sings. Since the music is so catchy, it’s easy to miss how bleak the song is. The lyrics talk about a couple who know things aren’t what they used to be and wonder if they can ever get it back. It’s their strongest track from their early days and perfectly shows off their catchy sound.

Remedy” is another upbeat track that gets you on your feet, though it sounds generic. Even with the splash of synth that pops up during the second verse, the song is formulaic. It could be from any alt-rock band and it gets boring after a while. “Loyal Blood” has the same issue. The music is fun and energetic with a good pop/punk vibe to it. But again, it sounds like alt-rock tunes you’ve heard a million times. Funnily enough, this track sounds like something that could’ve appeared on their first album as PK.

Most of the EP is made up of slow tracks that mean well, but don’t hold your attention for very long. “Spiders” catches you off guard with its muted pulsating beats and haunting vocals that open the song. It sets up this chilling feeling you can’t shake. Though it has a melancholic air, the lyrics are quite empowering with a message of stay strong and keep pushing forward in the face of adversary. It’s not a bad track, but the slow music and sleepy vocals become boring after a while.

Masks” begins ominously with buzzing music that grows more intense every minute. Tension thickens when Hawley starts singing making you question where the song is going next. The mood breaks during the hook when the music kicks up switching to an uptempo mood. It’s a slow-burning track that would’ve fit comfortably on their debut LP. Similar to “Spiders” it’s not very engaging. There’s nothing about it that grabs your attention. Soon, you’re ready to move on to the next song.

Closing track “Young Lore” is another highlight of the EP. Opening with a stark, somber piano, choir-like vocals fill the air as the music constantly builds. Hawley starts humming as if he’s singing a church hymn. The mood doesn’t stay somber for long as the bouncy music makes a return and gets you moving. It also has a positive message of living life now and doing what you want because our time on earth is short. Similar to their best songs, this one makes you dance and has a memorable hook you’ll struggle to get out of your head for days.

While Young Lore isn’t Night Riots’ strongest release, it does lay the groundwork for where they would go next. It marks a young band finding their sound. Some of it is generic, while other spots hint to what would come later. There are some dance-worthy tracks, but a lot of it is slow and mellow with nods to electronic elements they would add later on. A good chunk of it sounds like your average alt-rock band. It’s just a shame it isn’t as fun, catchy, or charming as Howl or Love Gloom.