Album Reviews

Flashback to the land of Spiders!

Spiderland? What the hell is that? In 1991, a record from a band called Slint landed on the shelves of record stores representing the underground scene. It is a real celebrated album. Spiderland opened doors to a great progression in music and reinvented rock without leaving its primary components behind. Brian McMahon’s voice is a balance of grungy growls and soft whispering with narration. This creates a sublime atmosphere. A cold and dark mood surrounds the record. Actually, it is really intense, sometimes appearing to arrive at the doorsteps of suicidal states of major depression. I would not be surprised if some of the guys in the group had to be committed during the recording sessions. When I listen to the music of Slint, its like I’m floating downstream and being told a story without a happy ending. There are disturbing aspects of adolescent life that are painfully exposed through Brian’s vocals.
But, these guys were actually pretty simple fellas at the time. Upon listening to the first couple of tracks, you realize that it is opening up in a calm environment but slowly progressing towards a shady and swampy era. Guitar relationships and distortions create a strange and yet original effect. I swear these instruments literally sound as if spiders or creatures from the deep are awakening and actually crawling all over the strings and amplifiers. The sound and tone of Spiderland is slowly building towards a climax with heartache and bruises along the way until it reaches it’s energizing finale. Most certainly, the final track entitled, “Good Morning Captain,” is the album at its peak. It is their most well known composition too. Every time I hear it, I get chills thinking about the loss of friends in a terrible event. The combination of a two guitar approach with creepy narration (no singing) create beautiful  and near perfect ambiance. All of this brings us to the final explosion, with a fierce scream of “I’m in hell, I’m in hell, I miss you…”

The recording, in general, makes the listener aware of difference in our world. The band creates an extremely depressing atmosphere with subtle guitar riffs. The sound is trembling, tense and nerve racking. I feel like I am getting close to the edge but not quite going over. It is mind blowing to grasp that four young kids had an amazing visionary construction of rock, opening doors to bands like Helmet, Tool and well much of the post-rock scene. I implore all grunge enthusiasts out there to find your way to a mom and pop record shop. While you’re there, grab a copy of Slint’s Spiderland on cd, vinyl or even on a cassette tape. Play it loud too. This is going to resonate with you for a long time.

Album Reviews

What the Hell is an Idler Wheel?


So what did I think when I listened to this one?

First off, don’t listen to the skeptics or the folks who listened to this album one time and somehow had an epiphany in just a few minutes that this album sucks and is not what they wanted Fiona Apple to do for them. This record will not instantly satisfy you. It truly ages like a fine wine. For some she is an acquired taste. Her voice is crystal clear on the production. It feels like she is pouring out her vocals while sitting in my living room. Her voice and piano alone could carry an album. On this record, it is essentially those two elements with some obscure jazz drumming and random noises, but it works beautifully.

This is not an over-produced “cookie-cutter” record to cater to the silly and simple-minded music listeners out there. This is a work of “art” that drips like lava from Fiona’s heart. It’s disappointing to hear from the supposed “fans” who do not have the patience to give a record more than one spin.  No….instead they’ll jump to snap judgement…and then begin to try to rain on my parade, someone who actually wanted to pick this one up because I am brave enough to take a gamble like this. But it was soooooo worth it! Fiona is a raw talent and not your typical polished studio musician.

After my first listen (while doing the dishes) or two (working on paper work at my desk), I knew this was completely different from previous releases, going back to the “Criminal” and “Shadowboxer” days from the 90’s. After giving it three spins today, it really hit me that this is Fiona vomiting her emotions out like never before. She is really letting loose and her voice sounds better than ever.

The writing and creativity is excellent. I’m not going to go into a song by song breakdown like everybody likes to do. That’s saved as a special treat for the “real fans” to experience on their own. I’m here to say that this is some of the most glowing and emotional work I have heard from this beautiful yet violent and passionate musician…but it takes a little time and “patience” to learn. And once you do, it is an amazing album where she really lets her inner self right out there. Quite an intimate record. She has truly grown by leaps and bounds and this record is a huge step forward.

The complete title is called, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do

She’s a whimsical young lady and I am glad she takes her time recording new material. Afterall, it’s been 7 years since her last one. And yet, we patiently waited for her best record ever and perhaps one of the best releases of 2012. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see this appear in next years Grammy’s.

In my opinion, it’s a masterpiece that resonates and will be talked about for a long time. Give it at least two listens, you just might agree with me?