Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Album review: Black Gives Way To Blue by Alice in Chains

(I know this is a very long review, mostly because I want to describe each song and how it sounds. So please bear with me.)

So yesterday I picked up this album at Best Buy on the day of release, it wasn't even on the shelves yet when I got it, it was still on the carts. But anyway, this is AiC's first album in 14 years, and there first album without Layne Staley, who died of a drug overdose in 2002.
I must say, his replacement, William Duvall, does a pretty good job of singing, he doesn't sound like Layne Staley but he doesn't sound out of place at all. The only problem is that he doesn't get enough upfront singing time, in there old material Layne Staley was clearly the undisputed lead singer, although much of there sound relied on vocal harmonies with guitarist Jerry Cantrell, he was always upfront and Cantrell was in the background more so. Now it's the opposite, while William Duvall actually manages to harmonize well, he doesn't sing upfront much, except on 1 song.
It actually seems that they've traded some harmonizing for switching singing lines, which is kinda cool I suppose. But anyway, this album is definitely Alice in Chains, although they aren't trying to rehash past material, it starts out with "All Secrets Known", its, I'm not sure how to really describe it, airy? AiC records, there 3 previous (they've been around since like 1987 and have only released 4 albums including this one and 2 EP's, although one of them is long enough to be considered a short album, its got 7 songs, it's like half an hour.) albums have always started off with a heavy, rocking song that kicked the crap out of you. This one doesn't, but it's a good song. One thing that stands out is the lyrics are about a new beginning and healing and such, which seems appropriate. The next song is the radio single "Check my Brain", its easy to see why it was on the radio, its melodic, it's a rocking, non-acoustic song and its kinda catchy. Some people whine about how it talks about California, and it is a little cliche, but its about Jerry Cantrell moving to L.A, so it makes sense, seriously. Although I will say that the music video for this song sucks. Its one of the cheapest things I have ever seen. I think they blew there whole budget and we got that cheap piece of crap for a video. It shows the band playing the song and all, which is good, it's what a music video should be, but it looks like it was made with windows movie maker and some stock stuff, I'm not kidding, for example, when they sing "So I found myself in the sun...", guess what they do, they put a picture of the sun in the background! That's real creative. Not. Cheap indeed. But it is a good song. "Last Of My Kind" is the one song where Duvall sings upfront for pretty much the whole song, and he sings great, I don't know why he doesn't sing upfront more often. This is one of the standout songs on this album I feel, it's also one of the heaviest, along with "A Looking in View". But this is the only song we get to hear him upfront. The next song "Your Decision" is an acoustic song. A really good one in fact. I think this is one of the best songs on the album. Then there's "A looking in View", This song is really good, though it has a small flaw in that it drags too long. It's over 7 minutes long. it's also pretty heavy, in the intro theres a little bit of, actually like a split second of double bass, which is unusual for an Alice in Chains song. and then it rips into this riff, it rocks, then the verse with the "Hear footsteps creak the floor..." part with all the harmonies, then it launches right back into that riff, then the verse picks up again with the harmonies, then that riff again, and William Duvall goes "Lay! Down!..." in the chorus. Brilliant, it kicks hiney as the kids say now. Then they have some of that line trading thing with the vocals, where one sings one line and another sings the next, that's cool. And it's got that hook-y "A looking in view too long on the outside..." post chorus thing too, and it's also repeated alot at the end. Great song. "When The Sun Rose Again" is another acoustic song, its cool, it seems to be speaking about how they are back with the "It seems you prophesied all of this would end, where you burned away when the sun rose again?" I think that might be a reference to there sun logo. And then, there's "Acid Bubble", what a song, i think it's the best song on here, it's brilliant. It took a bit to grow on me, but when you really listen to it, you realize the small things that make this song so great. it's slow, it's sludgy, it starts with this riff that just towers over you, its got these slow, harmonized verses, then they've got that line trading again, with Cantrell singing "and I always payed attention to all the lines you crossed" and then Duvall sings "Forgive this imperfection, it shows and know..." part, that's freakin cool, then they go into the chorus with all the harmonies, and then when Duvall sings "Alone inside your mind" the way it rings out, that's cool, and it has a vaguely Layne Staley quality to it,and he doesn't even sound like him at all. All the little things, and then I love that riff that they play in the middle of the song, during the "Intent obsolescence! Built into the system!" part, it's all like duh-duh-duh duh duh duh- duh duh duh duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh, of course you can't really get it from my typing, but its so cool. That song is 6 minutes and 54 seconds of brilliance. "Lesson Learned" is one of those rocking songs, its fairly fast, its short, it's catchy, and its a definite candidate for a single. It's a good song. "Take her out" sounds like something from Jerry Cantrells solo career, but it's a really good song, I've seen some people say this is a weaker song or that it should have been a B-side for a single. I disagree, this is a good song, it's got that sludgy guitar that chugs along at a nice pace and fits well with the vocal melodies, and the chorus is kind of catchy, this is also a song I think could be a single. But its a good song. In fact, I'd say there are no bad songs on this album. But bottom line is this is a good song. "Private Hell" definitely has that "down in a hole" vibe, it's not quite as good though, it doesn't have the same high "Down in a Hole" did. I mean this song has that, but it's not nearly as good as "Down in a Hole". This song does have those "Uh huh, uh huh" responses though. It's not a bad song by any means though. Finally, the album closer, and title track "Black gives Way to Blue", is easily the best ballad they ever did. Ever. In fact, Elton John plays piano on this song, which makes it even better. The only problem with this song is that it's too short, although that's not really a problem. It's a beautiful song really. And I like that they take a stab at all those rip off bands with the "Imitations are pale" line. Great song, perfect closer.
This album does not tarnish Alice in Chains in any way, in fact, it's a great album that in my opinion has no bad songs. It's merely a new chapter in their history. It took some time for this album to grow on me though, I seriously considered giving this album a 7 at first, but I figured 8, but now, I think that this album is deserving of a 10, it's that good. Go out and buy this album now, seriously. 10 out of 10.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Calculators: an exercise in mediocrity

So heres an idea for a rant i've had for a long time, so whats the point of using calculators in school? In 4th grade when we were learning division and such we weren't allowed to use them, but now we're allowed to use them for almost everything, its stupid. When all the computers fail, how will stores calculate prices? They probably can't write it out because they probably don't know how too. It's stupid, or rather its making us stupid. They let us use calculators for stuff we could do in our head probably if we thought about it or wrote it out. Its ridiculous.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Today at School

School today was easily the saddest school day ever. I heard the teacher in woodshop made an emotional speech that almost brought the whole class to tears. I myself feel bad I didn't wear orange, I dont have anything orange, that I didnt know Colton better, and I feel bad for eceryone else espeshally Katie and Nick and such. I think i'm still fully processing this though. I mean, 14 year olds aren't supposed to just die. You go through school seeing the same few hundred kids through out the years grow up and graduate, from beginning to end, now that isn't going to happen. I mean, kids move sometimes, but it's just not the same. There was a general feling of sadness through out school today, in math class a few kids cried, it felt really weird just having an empty desk there, you know? I feel sad, although some people are absolutly torn. This is truely a sad day.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

R.I.P Colton

Edit: Ok, maybe he wasnt even at the dance, although thats what I was told. Still tragic either way. Antother edit: Ok, I dont really know, I'm hearing different things. A 3rd edit: Ok, she did go to the dance anyway, alone, sad isnt it?

So Colton died in a 4 wheeler accident yesterday. Really this is terrible. He was 14. I still can't really believe this happened. School will be interesting tomorrow. But really this is tragic, I didn't know him very well, but it was the night of the homecoming dance and he was taking this girl (I'm not going to mention her name because its irrelevant). Put yourself in her shoes, it's your first high school dance, and then the person u were taking dies on the day of the dance. It's sad really. This was completely unexpected. Really this is probably one of those moments that's burned into your mind, like JFK or 9/11, but on a smaller scale. Its one thing to hear about people dying on the news, but when it happens to someone you know it's completely different. This is truly a tragedy.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Album review - Inhaler by Tad

Tad was a grunge band from Seattle formed in 1988, despite the fact they were one of the first bands to sign to Sub Pop, they were the last notable local band to get a major label signing. They never became famous. After this album, their major label debut, they were dropped due to a controversial promo poster. After 1 more album that received negative reviews, they broke up in 1998 after several years of not being signed to a label. This album however, is apparently their best. It's also one of the heaviest grunge albums ever made. To me, this album almost defines grunge. Regardless of the hype surrounding the term, this album is grunge. It's heavy, distorted, it's got that dirty guitar sound to it. I also like the drumming, they seem to have a good drummer, he uses double bass occasionally too. Tad Doyle isn't really a good singer objectively, but he works well here. I think he also plays guitar. The album opens with "Grease Box", possibly the best song on the album, and in fact, one of my favorite songs. It opens with a great bass line that grooves. In fact, one time a few months ago it started playing in my head and I had no idea where it came from. But I was sure I'd heard it somewhere, then I found it when I remembered this song. But it starts with that bass line, and then the distorted, dirty, "grungy" guitar kicks in playing the same thing. It's great really. In the verse that guitars playing in the right speaker, then in the middle the other one kicks in the other speaker and I don't really know how to describe it but it rocks. I also like the "and you don't have to stand..." part in the chorus. And the solo is awesome, I mean, maybe its not like a thrash metal solo or something, but it sounds cool to me. The next song "Throat Locust" rocks and rolls. It starts and just assaults you with that riff, it's just a power chord or something but it kicks the crap out of anything Nickelback could ever dream of with a power chord. And then the chorus with its "It wont mean a thing..." is cool, and they have the lead guitar or whatever tremoloing over the power chord or whatever, its so simple but it's cool, I'm not a musician, so it can be hard for me to describe what I hear, but nonetheless, I try. Leafy Incline starts out downbeat, with it's downbeat verses until the loud chorus, with its sorta catchy "I'm not alone" part. It's a good song. "Luminol" has a bunch of bass drum that has a cool rhythm and sort of drives the song. Until the middle when it gets soft with the acoustic guitar for a bit, except the electric guitars chaotically chiming in, then it goes back to the cool drumming. Then it gets even softer with a piano and acoustic guitar. That's cool. Then it goes back to electric and starts the end part of the song. But I'm not going to go into detail about each song. "Ulcer" is alright but, it doesn't really impress me much. It doesn't seem to stand out alot. "Lycanthrope" pretty much sucks. I don't like it. "Just bought the Farm" is an ok song. Not really bad, not really good. "Rotor" is really heavy. It opens with this bass line, then the guitar comes in for one moment, then it goes back to just bass. It's so simple but I think its cool. It's got a cool riff too, its heavy and grooves. And I just like the way Tad Doyle Belts out the chorus. "Paregoric" is, along with "Grease Box" one of the best songs on here. Its got a great crescendo riff that gets stuck in your head too, the riff is really cool sounding. Plus it's got that "Too late!" band chant too. "Pansy" has a really sludgy riff. The closer song "Gouge" is a ballad, with acoustic guitars mixed with electric, and is the most melodic song on here. It ends with a whole bunch of feedback noises. It's a good song. All in all, this is a really good heavy metal/grunge album. An album that rocks and rolls, This is exactly what it sounds like, really heavy grunge. 8 out of 10

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Video and Song of the week feature is on indefinate hiatus

So since it's really difficult to get good songs now, I've decided to put the weekly Song and Video feature on permenant hiatus, i'm essentially doing away with it. It may occassionally make a return if I find some interesting things, but as a weekly feature it is essentially no more. I've decided to get back to doing more rants. I'm also thinking of getting Google adsense, I know ads on the side aren't nessisarily good, but the more you click on them, the more money I get, which means more money to buy albums, and more content. But anyways, song and video of the week is now on permentant hiatis.