Archive for May, 2009

Green Day – 21st Century Breakdown (2009)

green-day-21st-century-breakdown

At the age of 15, I was pretty sure I was the biggest fan Green Day would ever have. Listened to them non-stop, wore out the vhs of the recorded woodstock mudfight, wrote out the lyrics on my school notebooks’ tabbed folders, and even made my own punk flower kerplunk! shirt. It was the hysteria that blessedly passed me by when all my friends went NKOTB-crazy, and it was my gateway into punk rock and a lifestyle I’ll always be grateful for.

So, it’s pretty awesome that nearly 15 years later I can say I made a solid emotional investment in these boys. 21st Century Breakdown is an ambitious album. Not only another concept album, but another rock opera. Arguably a more authentic rock opera than American Idiot, with three distinct acts and songs that tell the story better than most broadway musicals. But in spite of the high-concept, it’s still a Green Day album through and through, with irony, high-jinx, and true blue punk.

The title track opens well and I envision it as probably the third single (sidenote, my one complaint about Green Day is the number of singles that get squeaked out of every album, resulting in overexposure, but I guess it’s a byproduct of their popularity). Know Your Enemy is probably the right opening single. But Viva La Gloria sold me on the album. Beautiful and wistful, but rock-y not sappy. The kind of song that just brings me joy. Last Night on Earth brings to mind Good Riddance but is a little less user-friendly, which I prefer. Peacemaker is the best song on the album, witty and super-fun to listen to, mixing different styles with their signature sound. 21 Guns is also a ballad-type song, but it’s respectful and mature and reminds me a lot of Psychotica’s Soldier of War (which makes me smile since I know Billy Joe and Pat are friends, I feel like I’m in on a secret).

The whole album is fantastic, obviously intended to be listened to from start to finish, but that doesn’t mean that it needs to be. The songs stand well on their own and can probably be inserted into playlists easily. But it is very nice to sit and listen to the whole thing. I imagine someday it could even be staged, as is. Are you listening Off Broadway?

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The Butchies – 3 (2001)

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I had heard about the Butchies long before I actually heard them and didn’t really get around to buying an album because I was in college and not spending a whole bunch of money on albums at the time. Anyway, this worked out in my favor because a friend invited me to go to their show at the Ottobar and I got a totally amazing live performance as my first exposure to The Butchies and I’ve been totally enamored of them since.

So let’s get this out of the way – yes, they are a band of butch lesbians. And that’s not schtick or something they can rest on in lieu of musical talent. Because these are about the most talented musicians I’ve seen. And their sound is in no way genre-cast of other gay chicks. Compare them to Indigo Girls and KD Lang at your own risk. I call them punk, but others have disagreed with me. Maybe mellow punk?

As I said, my first exposure was live, and to this day it was the most crowded I have ever seen Ottobar, and the best part was almost the entire place was bad-ass women being cool to each other the whole time. The band had an incredible energy and interacted with the crowd the whole time. And while all members totally rocked out, the drummer, Melissa York was freaking phenomenal. I sort of fell in love with her when she jumped on top of her stool, did some cool drum stick trick and then jumped back down and kicked right into a song. I later found out that she was the drummer behind the album version of Le Tigre’s Keep On Living and the drums made that song the best on the album.

As for the album I’m reviewing – 3 – I think it’s my favorite Butchies. It’s a little bit more mature than Are We Not Femme, but it’s still punky and fun. Anything Anthology is a great intro, but is nothing compared to Forget Your Calculus which comes next. Forget Your Calculus starts pretty and sweet and then rocks harder. And I think it has the best rendition of a “yeah yeah yeah” type moment. Huh Huh Hear is almost a couple songs in one with a lot of interesting style changes. Not Like Mine is more ballad-y with crazy lyrics like “her jawline is not like mine” and really beautiful harmonies. The Wedding Disaster is sad, but lovely – cathartic if you’re in the mood to cry. As is Junior High Lament, which has a really cool baseline and throaty lyrics.

In spite of its controversial gay association that bugs so many intolerant assholes, the music itself is generally so pretty and non-threatening that everyone who has heard it in my car has mentioned that they like it and asked about it. I could imagine it being a good album for when a party is winding-down. But I of course love it most alone in my car – especially late at night driving home from b-more.

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Poe – Haunted (2004)

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I’m not sure why, but I recently got one of the songs from this album in my head, so I dusted it off and brought it along in the car. I’m glad I did, because it got the song out of my head. But unfortunately, this is one of those albums that found its way into my collection but does not really make the grade in terms of my elite musical standards.

I imagine it’s not easy being a solo female artist in the rock genre. Actually, being a solo artist at all does not usually bode well for folks – at least in terms of me liking them. So, with that in mind, Poe actually does alright. She stays true to the weirdness, especially with this cd, which is essentially a love letter to her dead father. Creepy, weird, the potential to be pretty cool. But there’s a little too much pop and solo-artist schtick to make it feel genuine.

There are a few songs I genuinely really like – I did have a reason for buying this cd, after all. The title track is pretty and sad. Wild is a really cool rock song that turns into an even cooler electronica dance tune – really good late-night driving sound. Lemon Meringue is a little happy for my style, but has a good chorus. And Spanish Doll is the song that made me dust off this album again in the first place. It has a distinctly spanish sound, samples delightful classic-movie soundtrack music and spanish background vocals, and has sweet simple lyrics – and Poe’s vocal range in it is impressive. Finally, there’s the album hit, Hey Pretty, which features a dramatic reading of a passage by Mark Danielewski (Poe’s brother) from his book, House of Leaves. Hey Pretty was on the radio and boys loved it because the passage dealt with a slutty girl in a sleek car. But to be honest, I’m a little surprised by the tone in which that particular passage was ready by its author, because I read the book – really brilliant, actually – and that passage struck me as really empty and lonesome and not at all a pleasant or exciting experience for the narrator, but I guess it all comes down to selling albums/books. Either way, it is interesting to have a companion(ish) album to a book that I really enjoyed. Finally, at all costs, avoid I’m Not a Virgin Anymore – this song is exactly the reason I avoid many solo female artists.

I don’t recommend the album, only the songs mentioned above. They can be good additions to playlists for long car rides and house-cleanings. Stay tuned for a more beloved album, soon.

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