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Thread: Album Reviews

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    Quote Originally Posted by Von Halen View Post
    Binnie, please stick to reviewing albums that rock about as much as the Van Clichegar catalogue. That's all these "rockers" around here, can handle. I posted a full length Avatar concert, and it was too heavy for them.
    I'm guessing a black metal album and a prog album are a bit out of place, then?
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    From the Vaults – Motorhead – Another Perfect Day (1983)

    There is a myth that Motorhead never really evolved. Although their sound is instantaneous – you know Lemmy and co. within 4 bars of a song – that is not the same as it being static. They were no AC/DC, and routinely tried new sounds and feels in their career – the acoustic lament ‘1916’, the straight-up 12 bar of ‘Whorehouse Blues’ or the wealth of experimentation of the ‘Bastards’ album being just the obvious examples. The band’s recruitment of former Thin Lizzy axe-god and all-round live-wire Brian ‘Robbo’ Robertson in 1983 was something of an odd choice in retrospect: Lizzy were a rock band, for sure, but one based on delicacy and restraint rather than ‘head thunder. Relationships with the Lemmy and Philthy – two equally volatile figures – were famously cool, but if anything Robbo’s ear for melody gave ‘Another Perfect Day’ a feel which earlier Motorhead records didn’t have. The thunder was still there, but it came wrapped in some very sinewy, melodic guitar lines.

    Often maligned as the nadir of Motorhead’s catalogue, ‘Another Perfect Day’ is really no such thing. In truth, many of the songs here are superior to the last album made by the classic Lemmy-Taylor-Clarke lineup, ‘Iron Fist’, which was patchy at best. Opener ‘Back At The Funny Farm’ kicks things off with pure sonic violence: Lemmy’s trademark bass thundering in competition with Philthy Taylor’s double-kick drums, where Robbo plays elegant, blues lines over the top, injecting proceedings with slashes of violence. ‘Shine’ keeps the Motorhead approach to rock’n’roll going, but sees Lemmy inject more melody and smoothness into the vocal that had hereto been the case – chosen as a single, it really is an unheralded classic. ‘Dancing On Your Grave’ has all the witty lines, gravelly bottom-end and relentless jack-fuelled energy which made this band so utterly unique, and Robbo’s guitar certainly takes it up a notch or three. ‘One Track Mind’ goes for the same vibe as ‘Bombers’ ‘Metropolis’, but to these ears Robbo’s slippery, emotive guitar lines makes it a superior cut to the more heralded tune.

    There were moments where Robbo feels out of places. On ‘Rock It’ he seems to play over the band rather than with them. The title track is a good song – the problem, however, is that is perhaps veers too far away from what you expect from Motorhead to be acceptable – more straight-ahead rock than bombastic bass ‘n’ roll – in the same way that ‘Load’ was a good album, just not a good ‘Metallica’ album. On ‘Marching Off To War’, the band feels less instinctive and spontaneous than you expect – you can feel them thinking about how they should sound rather than just….sounding. But these oddities are the exception, not the rule, to what is a damn fine record which crackles with energy, vim and VOLUME!

    ‘Another Perfect Day’, then, is not so much a noble failure as no failure at all. Fans would have to wait 3 years (a lifetime between albums in the ‘80s) for the follow up – 1986’s ‘Orgasmatron’ – which saw the band bulked out to a two-guitar four piece which would lead to a further evolution of their sound. Perhaps the fact that is marked the beginning of an odd time in ‘head history has marked its place in their canon unnecessarily. It’s hard to argue with tunes as strong as ‘I Got Mine’ or ‘Tales Of Glory’. And for those who thought that this was a wimpier Motorhead……album closer ‘Die You Bastard’ is surely a fitting response!

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    ^^^^^^
    Someone requested a review of that one years ago - apologies for taking so long to getting around to it!

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    If anyone has any requests, I'm happy to take them (assuming I own the album in question, of course).

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    1. Spice Girls
    2. New Christy Minstrels
    3. Anything pre-1982 Barry Manilow
    4. Any "Jock Jams" Album
    5. 5 Seconds Of Summer

    Think you could handle that, limey?
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    Quote Originally Posted by binnie View Post
    Binnie’s Dirty Dozen: Van Halen – Women and Children First (1980)

    I found this record at a car boot sale when I was nine years old, in 1991. A discarded cassette tossed amongst lots of other discarded cassettes in (if memory serves) a green plastic washing basket. It cost me 25 pence. At that point, I’d exhausted my dad’s and uncle’s vinyl collections (AC/DC, Nugent, Deep Purple, Hendrix……you know the score) and was always hunting for whatever metal I could find cheaply on our excursions to car boot sales (a nigh-on weekly event in the binnie household). I’d heard the name ‘Van Halen’ from the copies of Kerrang! I’d begun to buy, but I had no idea what to expect from ‘Women and Children First’, a record I bought purely because on their cover shot I thought that band looked cooler than anything I’d ever seen. I got home, re-wound the tape, pressed play and……………..BOOM! Life was never quite the same ever again.

    What struck me about the record – even at nine years old – was how different it sounded from all of the other Hard Rock/Metal I’d been scoring. It was HEAVY, but it wasn’t metal. Van Halen were always more than that, they had a feel to their sound, a sense of spontaneity that made the music sparkle and crackle, swing in a way that made almost everything else I was listening to seem rigid. And ‘Women and Children First’ captures that spontaneity, that spark on the horizon, at its absolute best – to these ears, the whole essence of Van Halen can be summed up in the magic – and I mean magic, the sense of something so pure its power is beyond human – of the couple of bars of music on which ‘Romeo’s Delight’ spins from the loose verse into the muscular chorus, ‘Oh baby please, I can’t take it any mo-wor’…….Has rock ‘n’ roll ever had so much life-affirming energy? I seem to remember that I broke the stereo I had at that time playing that song over and over. My dad’s response? A bigger stereo!

    And then, there was the guitar. This was a sound that plugged straight into the little boy in all men – a sound so outlandish that you HAD to listen. Some things just don’t need to be explained, their appeal is elemental, chemical even. And Eddie Van Halen’s guitar, like the Cindy Crawford poster that had recently been added to my bedroom wall, made me tingle in all of the right places. It made me want to fuck before I even knew what fucking was. And the intro to ‘Fools’ – easily the most underrated song in Van Halen’s catalogue – still hits me like a kiss from an angel with a dirty smile to this day.

    Van Halen’s third record saw the band at their freest, their most in the moment. ‘Loss of Control’. ‘….And The Cradle Will Rock’, these are not songs that sound like anyone else. What Van Halen served up here was something that is almost completely absent from music in the pro-tooled age: a sense of performance. A sense of humans playing instruments in the now. It’s the imperfections, the nuances, that make it special. People often write Hard Rock off as big and dumb, but when you listen to something as delicate as ‘Could This Be Magic’, you hear something fragile – you can almost sense the band breathing and hear their heartbeats. The polar opposite is the filthy ‘Everybody Wants Some’, on which David Lee Roth plays his best pied-piper-of-poontang part – the mid-section (which was famously improvised in the studio) is pure bar room bravado distilled to its essence. What is there to say about Diamond Dave here? You can’t deny his heroic talents as a frontman, but the music press as a whole has yet to truly give him his dues as a lyricist. To these ears, ‘Women And Children First’ was Dave’s best set of lyrics – uncomplicated, but full of spice, warmth and humour. Whether it’s the energy of first love (‘In A Simple Rhyme’), or the morning-after-the-night-before (‘Take Your Whiskey Home’) here we have the bar fly as philosopher in his very best shirt and tails. Listening to Dave’s baritone – a husky gravel track in a landscape over-populated with shrieking belters – I was quickly transformed in a cock-strutting, jive talkin’ hound dog long before I could even come close to grasping much of the sub-text. Sometimes you understand by instinct, not cognition.

    Van Halen’s third album is not their best – that, surely, would have to be ‘Fair Warning’. But it remains my favourite, the one I fell in love with. The things that can come from a dirty, old wash basket………
    It's probably the murkiest CVH album, and even more so when considering the relative concision of the tunes that comprised the first two albums. With Van Halen and Van Halen 2, the tunes were all performed in that high-energy CVH style yet one could tell the recording of them was the result of having been honed over several years of being played night-after-night in clubs. Most of the songs were short, to-the-point and didn't sound like the band was really 'jamming' while doing the takes. This makes WACF all the more jarring, because the band - and Eddie in particular when soloing - sound very, very loose and willing to semi-improvise in the studio. This is added to a much more eclectic range of styles on WACF that were only hinted at on the first two albums. Could This Be Magic was quite unlike anything Van Halen had put on record up to that point. In A Simple Rhyme was (dare I say) almost pretty-sounding.

    WACF probably comes the closest of all the CVH albums to sounding like recordings of the band rehearsing at Dave's fathers basement for the album sessions than an actual album recording session itself. The band sound like they were half-drunk at times. I agree 100% with Binnie that Van Halen's third record exhibits the band at their freest in a studio context. Virtually none of the rough edges have been refined. Not just the intro, but the entire Fools track is just so raw and unrefined. There are so many moments on the album (abrupt endings, unplanned feedback bursts, intermittent microphone bleeding, random sonic interludes a la Tora Tora, the ending to Take Your Whiskey Home, Growth) left intact that probably would have been left on the cutting room floor or smoothed over in the overdub process with any other band.

    With Fair Warning, the band returned to a more practiced type of performance with the tracks. Shades of the WACF looseness returned with the Diver Down release (mostly because the band recorded DD very quickly), but unlike WACF the DD album sounded a bit dry in terms of sonics vs. WACF's reverb-laden atmosphere. Plus, with DD one can easily discern which tracks the band were specifically targeting for radio play. With WACF, virtually none of the tunes outside of ATCWR immediately jump out as a hook-laden, radio-friendly track. WACF is the band at their most spontaneous, roughest, loosest and toughest (see Romeo Delight).
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    Quote Originally Posted by binnie View Post
    From the vaults: Aerosmith – Permanent Vacations (1987)

    The ‘80s killed many a great ‘70s band. Those skinny-hipped, groupie destroyin’, cocaine bingin’ rock ‘n’ roll circuses of the post Summer of Love era became boufon sportin’, shoulder-pad flaunting, flaccid and flabby limp-dick parodies of their former selves in the decade of reverb. Aerosmith certainly fell victim to many of their peers crimes – the Toxic Twins cleaned up, got all philosophical (well, sorta) and realised that a band was a business. And businesses need hits, hits which Tyler and Perry could no longer deliver: enter a raft of outside songwriters to tease out the benjamins from the kids who loved the Sunset Strip sound (and their parents).

    1987’s ‘Permanent Vacation’ was Aerosmith’s second attempt at an ‘80s comeback after the career low of 1985’s woeful ‘Done With Mirrors’. Re-recording ‘Walk This Way’ with Run DMC a year later certainly garnered them some momentum, and ‘Permanent….’ coupled the R’n’B goodtime of the band’s yesteryear to those shinny bought-in hooks. In truth, there’s nothing wrong with wanting your record to be a success – but what has always stuck in the craw of many Aerosmith fans is the fact that this second stage of the band’s career was so calculated that it robbed much of the music of feel and authenticity (how else do we explain the appearance of Bon Jovi’s production team – Bruce Fairburn and Bob Rock – to oversee the ageing band’s makeover for the poodle rock era?)

    And to these ears, at least, it is the production which is the problem. Riffs are buried in the mix, there is an absence of soloing, and the overall guitar sound lacks the grit and gristle which made this band cool. Take uber-hit ‘Dude (Looks Like A lady)’ as an example – it’s more brass than sass. This, then, was a blues band in some shinny new clothes, and on the likes of ‘St. John’ and ‘Hangman’s Jury’, the pumped up nature of the production is overbearing and renders an art form at its best in an understated form chronically artificial. But having said that, if I’d been a 13 year old kid in 1987 I’d much have preferred to listen to this than Bon Jovi or Whitesnake – ‘cos ‘Smith had a couple of tricks left up their sleeves. The blues of ‘Rag Doll’ has a floating presence than none of the bozos on Sunset could have pulled off, and for all the poppier hooks ‘Heart’s Done Time’ really is the bluesy sort of funk that this band made its name on. You try to fight the hook in ‘Simoriah’, but it’ll get you nonetheless. Even ‘Angel’ – so soppy it sounds like it should soundtrack a montage of Tom Cruise films – is one of Aerosmith’s better power ballads.

    Like it or not, for Aerosmith to survive something had to change. If ‘Girl Keeps Coming Apart’ was the best that Tyler/Perry could deliver, it’s no surprise that outside songwriters were suggested. But ‘Permanent….’ had its moments. The rejuvenation to pop-rock superstardom which had begun with ‘…Mirrors’ and would peak with ‘Pump’ had flounced its way to mediocrity six years later in the overbearingly flabby ‘Get A Grip’ (which, in ‘Angel’, ‘Crazy’ and ‘Cryin’ featured three versions of the same radio friendly unit shifter). They may have been sober, but they were still colourful – even if those colours were in more restrained hues than they had been in the band’s heyday. ‘Permanent….’ was an important part of hard rock in 1987. As important in its own way as ‘Hysteria’ or ‘1987’, it at least had a merit which those albums didn’t have – it was not the signature album of the band that made it.
    Indeed, Aerosmith in 1986/1987 made a choice to survive. And it was a top-to-bottom choice throughout the entire Aerosmith organization, down to all the members of the band getting clean and sober, embracing new band management, listening to record company A&R concerns, contemporizing their image and embracing outside songwriters and producers who were creating records that were selling millions of albums.

    There is little doubt, even though it's hypothetical speculation, that the reformed band going the 1985 Done With Mirrors route would not have went on to become the business juggernaut they did in the post-Mirrors years. They opted to alter the musical approach to appease the business side of the venture. It's not called the music business for nothing.

    On a personal level, I have little use for what the band has done post-Mirrors. Mostly because so little of that RUN DMC and beyond output has either balls or resonance. I wouldn't say the entirety of Aerosmith's output from Vacation onward is useless, but it's kind of like a prospector showing up at a gold or diamond mine long after all the initial vein was tapped: you have to do quite a bit of sifting to come up with precious few granules, in many cases coming up with little more than some random sprinkles of gold or diamond dust among a lot of rocks spray painted gold and chunks of zirconium.

    My litmus test for any band's output would be wondering what it would be like to see them live and picking a particular point in their discography as a demarcation line. For example, say I saw KISS in concert. If the band played a set list containing tunes strictly up to and including the album Love Gun, and nothing after it, I wouldn't walk away feeling let down. The same applies to Aerosmith and the album Rock In A Hard place.

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    I love the song "Hangman's Jury".
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    Quote Originally Posted by Terry View Post
    On a personal level, I have little use for what the band has done post-Mirrors. Mostly because so little of that RUN DMC and beyond output has either balls or resonance. I wouldn't say the entirety of Aerosmith's output from Vacation onward is useless, but it's kind of like a prospector showing up at a gold or diamond mine long after all the initial vein was tapped: you have to do quite a bit of sifting to come up with precious few granules, in many cases coming up with little more than some random sprinkles of gold or diamond dust among a lot of rocks spray painted gold and chunks of zirconium.
    It was a slower death for me until the cheese content got just too high that I stopped listening even glancing to see if there was any sprinkles there at all around the time of Nine Lives came out.

    It's funny to read the Binnie review because much of this album is so wrapped up in my memories I can't be objective about it. If I hear a song like Dude Looks Like A Lady or Rag Doll, I don't think 'Is this a good song?' or 'Is there too much brass?'

    I just think about being in black painted night clubs, the smell of tobacco with a hint of dope, dry ice, certain brands of beer like Red Stripe and most of all the feeling of wandering about in a haze on sticky floors. Angel becomes that cheap magic act video.

    I haven't listened to it in many years but I would argue that album has some gold ignoring the big singles - only 2 songs are Desmond Child efforts plus the Beatles cover.

    That leaves Simoriah, Hangman Jury, Permanent Vacation, St John even Girl Keeps Coming Apart. Also I had forgotten about 'The Movie'. That's more good songs than would find on any Motley Crue album.

    Actually I'm away to listen to it now. I should make up a playlist stripping out all the stuff that made me stop listening to this era of Aerosmith...
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    Quote Originally Posted by binnie View Post
    ^^^^^^
    Someone requested a review of that one years ago - apologies for taking so long to getting around to it!
    Another Perfect Day is my favourite Motorhead album, and one of my favourite albums, period.
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    Everclear – Black is the New Black (2015)

    After years of cocking about trying to make arty pop, it appears that Everclear have finally rediscovered the joy of blasting out grunge-inspired, foot-to-the-floor riff rock. The format on album no. 9 is very reminiscent of the band’s ‘90s hey-day: simple arrangements, wall of sound guitars, sugary hooks and bitter-sweet, walking-wounded-and-lost-in-the-world tales of frontman Art Alexakis’s horrendous childhood, addiction and various broken relationships (a pick ‘n’ mix of fuck-uppery, if you will). And it is a joyous trip. Opener ‘Sugar Noise’ is built around a sucker-punch riff and a kiss-of-life chorus, ‘Pretty Bomb’ is a big burst of ‘Bleach’-era Nirvana and ‘The Man Who Broke His Own Heart’ is up there with the very best alt.rock can offer, an instant Husker Du on Venice Beach burst of pop-rock brilliance. Some things grate a little – Alexakis has a tendency to drop into the self-help twaddle recovering addicts like to spout (‘Anything is Better Than This’) - but this is the heaviest Everclear have sounded in years, and they feel rejuvenated for it.

    It’s not big, it’s not clever, but when something is this raw, honest and delivered with a knack for storytelling you can’t help but gravitate to it.

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    Avenged Sevenfold – The Stage (2016)

    Avenged Sevenfold cemented their status as the biggest heavy band of their generation with ‘Hail To The King’ (2013), a huge commercial success which saw them play enormadomes the world over and headline the planet’s largest festivals. Success came at a price, however. For all its humability, ‘Hail…’ was a deeply dishonest record, a pick ‘n’ mix of all the best bits of rock’s biggest acts – Metallica, Megadeth, G’N’R, and so on – rolled into one vast pastiche and thrust on an unsuspecting generation of teens who didn’t really know any better. Yet simplicity sells, and you can imagine that when their record company learnt that Avenged were working on a new record they were hoping for ‘Hail….#2’. What they – and, frankly, no-one else – was expecting was a 70+ minute concept album about artificial intelligence which features zero obvious singles, songs of dazzling complexity which routinely straddle the 6 minute mark, and a 15 minute closer about the big bang complete with a monologue from physicist Neil Degrasse Tyson. Launching the album as a surprise release – with no ad campaign of pre-launch press – was probably the straw which broke the spread-sheet reading record exec’s back. No wonder they changed labels.

    ‘The Stage’, then, is Avenged demonstrating their willingness to be contrary. Critics and metal elitists bemoaned that ‘Hail…’ was a sell-out record, that a band who had made their name of on the back of genre-smashing, wilfully complex albums has simplified and copied in pursuit of the almighty dollar. ‘The Stage’ is a reaction to that: to some ears, it will be an OVER-reaction, for this is not an instantaneous, readily digestible burst of anthemic metal. It is, however, a very impressive, admirable album. And it is also an artistic statement, the sound of band with plenty of creative vim left to fire. The dial is most definitely – and defiantly – set to ‘Go Grand or Fuck it!’

    The opening (and title) track is 8 minutes of retro Avenged Sevenfold. Big riffs, bouncing rhythms, testosterone vocals and widdly guitar harmonies vie for your attention across multiple sections of an epic song as we pass from the sublime to the ridiculous with more than a little pomp. It sounds like Helloween on acid. There is a lot of music here, but all is held together by the hooks and an unbridled sense of fun (something rare in today’s metal scene). Elsewhere we find crunching, riff-heavy slabs of thrash-derived metal all served up with M Shadows’s charismatic vocal harmonies (see the frankly pummelling ‘God Damn’, the frantic ‘Paradigm’ and the guitar hero worship of ‘Creating God’ – all are deserving of inclusion into the band’s set-list). The variety is also impressive. The ballad ‘Roman Sky’ is impossibly beautiful and – by Avenged’s standards, at least – surprisingly restrained; and ‘Sunny Disposition’ sees the band willing to experiment, sandwiching brass sections amidst their metallic bluster (it almost works). 15 minute closer ‘Exist’ is bigger than Trump’s ego and is really 3 songs in one: a ballad sandwiched between 2 bursts of unholy metallic bluster. Featuring some of the best guitar you will hear this year, and riffs that would make Hetfield or Mustaine proud, this is a damn fine piece of work from a damn fine band. There simply are no adjectives to describe something this wholly over the top and supremely melodramatic.

    ‘Exist’ also takes us to the heart of this album, too. Like it, everything here rewards multiple listens – there are no obvious radio-friendly unit-shifters and little that actively sticks in your head on first listen, such is the complexity of the arrangements. As with Avenged’s classic records – ‘Waking the Fallen’ and ‘City of Evil’ – less would most definitely have been more here. But it is rewarding to see metal’s commercially premier band striving once again to be its critically premier band. You can only hope that some of the new fans they won over last time out are prepared to be challenged into taking the ride. Fast, frenetic, ambitious and never short of fun, ‘The Stage’ has made Avenged Sevenfold interesting and vital once again.

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    Are we getting a Metallica review soon, Bin? Because this new album kicks ass, IMO!!!

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    From the vaults: Dearly Beheaded – Temptation (1996)

    Don’t let the terrible band name put you off. Dearly Beheaded were a band which oozed potential and one which sadly adds to annals of groups who really should have seen more success and a larger audience. Released at a point just before Nu Metal was about to be huge, but after grunge had imploded and thrash had run out of ideas, ‘Temptation’ is the sound of a band experimenting with ultra-heavy, riff-worshipping metal is a vein similar too – but not derived from – ‘90s new boys Machine Head, Prong and Pepper Keenan-era Corrosion of Conformity. Produced by producer du jour Colin Richardson (Fear Factory, Machine Head) and mixed by Andy Sneap (now one of metal’s pre-eminent producers) the sound here still feels huge 20 year later. Fat guitar and a bottom end as tight as a nun’s chuff: marvellous stuff.

    But it is the songs which really impress. Opener ‘Behind the Sun’ practically commands you to bang your head, such is the crunch of its riffage. Like Pantera or Machine Head, the hallmark DNA of Dearly Beheaded was clearly thrash, but it had been married to a weighty groove which made it simpler, more powerful and heavy in a classic way. Witness the sonic battery of the title track or ‘Between Night & Day’, which sounds like Corrosion of Conformity covering Sabbath. ‘Leaving them Behind’ feels an awful lot like the first Down record, propelled as it is by a wall of riffs which kick like a mule to the gut. Phil Stevens and Steve Owens were truly blessed by the Lords of The Riff – when combined with the muscular croon of Alex Creamer’s larynx (think John Bush), the aural assault it a mighty treat for the ears.

    They could have been contenders. They should have been huge. But they were fucked by a scene which began chasing Korn and Manson clones. It is a cruel irony that ‘Temptation’ has aged better – and sounds a damn sight more vital – than any of the records made by bands who were deemed ‘forward thinking’ in the mid-90s. Worship the riff, hurt your neck and grin like a prisoner on day-release in a brothel.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Vengeance View Post
    Are we getting a Metallica review soon, Bin? Because this new album kicks ass, IMO!!!
    Yes, I'm still digesting it - the riffs, oh sweet lord, the riffs!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Seshmeister View Post
    It was a slower death for me until the cheese content got just too high that I stopped listening even glancing to see if there was any sprinkles there at all around the time of Nine Lives came out.

    It's funny to read the Binnie review because much of this album is so wrapped up in my memories I can't be objective about it. If I hear a song like Dude Looks Like A Lady or Rag Doll, I don't think 'Is this a good song?' or 'Is there too much brass?'

    I just think about being in black painted night clubs, the smell of tobacco with a hint of dope, dry ice, certain brands of beer like Red Stripe and most of all the feeling of wandering about in a haze on sticky floors. Angel becomes that cheap magic act video.

    I haven't listened to it in many years but I would argue that album has some gold ignoring the big singles - only 2 songs are Desmond Child efforts plus the Beatles cover.

    That leaves Simoriah, Hangman Jury, Permanent Vacation, St John even Girl Keeps Coming Apart. Also I had forgotten about 'The Movie'. That's more good songs than would find on any Motley Crue album.

    Actually I'm away to listen to it now. I should make up a playlist stripping out all the stuff that made me stop listening to this era of Aerosmith...
    I quite enjoyed the Pump album.

    I thought Sweet Taste Of India and Hole In My Soul were good. I thought Jaded was a decent tune.

    Nine Lives was the last Aerosmith album I bought and listened to a few times to see if something would jump out after repeated hearings. I've heard most of the rest of what they've put out over the last 20 years once.

    All of that notwithstanding, they could just play tracks off of their first 5 albums in concert and I'd be fine with that. Probably not so much the rest of the audience, because admittedly they've had a lot of hit singles from Vacation forward.

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    Korn – The Serenity of Suffering (2016)

    It is 22 years since Korn’s debut album. Let that sink in for a second: the poster-boys of ‘Nu’ metal – a sub-genre that, whatever your views, undoubtedly widened the vocabulary of heavy music – are now elderstatesmen. And yet, despite this being their 12th record, they don’t feel like it. They don’t have quite the respect or reverence lavished on bands of equivalent vintage or status. Perhaps because despite the multi-million selling status, they’ve always felt like outsiders. The Korn ‘brand’ is very distinct, and they still feel decidedly on the edges of metal despite their huge commercial successes. Some would say this makes them an awkward proposition – perhaps it is actually because theirs is a sound which is wholly unique to them.

    Recent years have seen the band in buoyant form. Experimentation with dub-step on ‘The Path of Totality’ (2011) was a bold and creative move which showed the band still willing to test genre boundaries as they had done 2 decades earlier; and the return of original guitarist Brian ‘Head’ Welch for 2013s ‘Paradigm Shift’ was almost universally acclaimed as hailing a return to form. In many ways ‘Serenity…’ builds on this momentum: it is a collection of short, succinct songs high on melody, big on bottom end, and strong in its consistency; and, at just over 40 minutes, demonstrates that less is very much more. It is also Korn’s heaviest record since ‘Untouchables’ (2002): the electronic from ‘Paradigm Shift’ is still present, but plays a much less prominent role, replaced instead with the thudding bass and down-tuned riffage which is this band’s hallmark. The results are often dazzling: closer ‘Next In Line’ will be a live stomper, ‘Rotting In Vein’ bounces and booms with verve, and ‘Insane’ has the low end thud which only Korn can deliver. Some bands are just distinct: like Motorhead, you know a song is by Korn inside 4 bars.

    And yet despite these virtues, ‘Serenity…’ is something of a hollow record. Producer Nick Raskulinecz pushed them to try and recover their distinctive ‘90s sound, with mixed results. This is by no means a pastiche or wilfully nostalgic record, but it does at times feel like a bunch of middle-aged men trying to act like their 21 year old selves and is replete with a whiff of the ridiculous which accompanies doing so. It is when the band branches out a little that the record feels most comfortable. Highs like ‘Black is The Soul’ – which combines heaviness with very Depeche Mode-esque melodies – and ‘Everything Falls Apart’ – a hugely affecting songs which injects melodies from the alternative ‘80s into Korn’s more usual sonic battery – are a credit to the band’s creativity and song-writing prowess. A quarter of a century in, and it feels like Korn still have much more to offer.

    This is a very good record. With a little less looking in the rear view mirror, however, it could have been a great one.

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    Crowbar – The Serpent Only Lies (2016)

    Crowbar don’t really do surprises. For three decades, Kirk Windstein’s band of not-so-merry men have been serving up ultra-heavy slabs of melancholy, Sabbath-inspired metal and on ‘The Serpent Only Lies’ – album no. 11 – they have served up yet more slabs of ultra-heavy, Sabbath-inspired metal. Riff after hulking riff lumbers the music into life in songs which are exercises of sonic excess in its purest form, the elemental parts of heavy metal welded together in a taught, blackened, macabre dance of world-weary souls battling their way through the world. This is the type of heavy you feel in your bowels. The type of heavy that is somatic. At their best, the songs here are remarkable: ‘Plasmic & Pure’ is the sound of the industrial revolution, and ‘Surviving the Abyss’ drips in melancholy beauty which could reduce the toughest of men to tears. ‘Serpent…’ may not be quite as consistent as Crowbar’s last two records – ‘Symmetry In Black’ (2014) and ‘Sever The Wicked Hand’ (2011) – but it is a testament to how unique the place in heavy music is which Crowbar have carved out.

    None. Fuckin’. Heavier.

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    Metallica – Hardwired…..To Self-Destruct (2016)

    This is the best Metallica album in 25 years. Focussed, furious, and packed with songs far better than anything a band 35 years into their career has any right to pen, ‘Hardwired….’ is a joy of record in which the grand-daddies of metal prove that they are more than capable of being relevant. Most of the sins of the recent past are absent: the production – carefully and unobtrusively handled by Greg Fiddleman – is superb, balancing a huge sound with Metallica’s inherent rawness; the mix is intelligent and serves the song’s dynamics rather than volume alone; and Lou Reed is nowhere in sight. ‘Death Magnetic’ (2008) was a glorious return to form after the ‘St. Anger’ (2003) debacle, a burst of thrash-inspired metal which reignited faith in Metallica in many leather-clad hearts. But for all its virtues – speed, power, aggression – ‘Death Magnetic’ felt a little bit contrived, the sound of a band trying too hard to be their 28 year old selves rather than actually making heavy music which came from within. There are no such concerns this time around – ‘Hardwired…’ is honest, and that is the source of its immediate, thudding impact. Moreover, where ‘Death Magnetic’ was a challenging listen, comprised of very long songs with multiple parts sometimes toppling over each other and failing to stick in the memory, ‘Hardwired…’ displays the thing which made this band stand out from all of the other big metal bands of the ‘80s: superb songs built of precise dynamics, balance, precision and poise. And the riffs? Oh, sweet lord, the riffs!

    Indeed, 4 of these songs are up there with this band’s very best. Each is indebted to Metallica’s past without being constrained by it. The opening and title track is 3 minutes of punk-infused thrash: simple, crushingly heavy and full of the muscular heaviness you used to expect. ‘Atlas, Rise!’ is perhaps the best song on the record: combining a series of killer riffs, Hetfield’s best set of lyrics in years, soaring Maiden-esque melodies and a chorus which deserves to ignite stadiums, this is the power and the glory of heavy metal in 6 minutes. ‘Moth Into Flame’ is an exercise in precise dynamics, a killer, crunching riff, thrashy-dynamics and ‘Black-album’ nods to melody combine in a thudding blast of heavy power. Finally, album closer ‘Spit Out The Bone’ – which predicts humanity’s destruction by artificial intelligence – is 7 minutes of blistering thrash metal, an eargasm of riffs straight from the Hetfield-is-God playbook. You didn’t think Metallica still had this in them. You will be pleased that they still do: it is as good as anything thrash produced in its heyday.

    The reason for the quality here, it seems, is focus. This is very much the Hetfield/Ulrich show: Rob Trujilo has 1 writing credit, Kirk Hammet has none. That focus is the reason that a series of truly great riffs have become truly great songs. The ear for power in simplicity – rather than cramming in every ideas as they did on ‘Death Magnetic’ – makes the record more immediate. ‘Now That We’re Dead’ is a case in point. A lumbering beast of a song which sits in that mid-paced crunch which Metallica used to excel in, the dynamics here are simple. The main riff could have been on an early Accept record, for instance, and creates space for the hooks to really sell the song as an anthem: this will kill live. The slooow ‘Dream No More’ – which is a cross between ‘The Thing That Should Not Be’ and ‘Sad But True’ with added Sabbath – is brutally heavily (its riffs could level cities), but it never veers from its purpose of crushing skulls. ‘Confusion’ features a riff which can rival anything Hetfield has done, and the menacing, brooding ‘Here Comes Revenge’ combines the blusier elements of the band’s ‘Load’ era with something darker, more metallic, and twisted. A slow burner it may be, but it is also one of the most interesting songs of the record.

    There are negatives here. At 2 discs and 77 minutes, the album is too long. Less would most definitely have been more. Touching as the gesture is, the world did not need to hear ‘Murder One’, a 5 minutes plodding tribute to Lemmy (why not a furious, short, sharp burst like the man himself would have written?); and, although it is clever in places, ‘ManUNkind’ feels like just another mid-paced song which gets lost in the second disc and diminishes the whole by making it drag. But the negatives should be downplayed. There is 60 minutes of superb music here, and for the first time since 1991 Metallica have written tunes which demand to be included in their setlist. Many legendary bands have returned to form in the recent years. Maiden, Anthrax, Megadeth, Korn, Killswitch Engage, and Carcass have all penned superb albums. There is a case to be made that ‘Hardwired…’ is better than any of them and when the ‘Best Of’ lists for 2016 come around, you can expect to see it ranked very highly.

    Metal. Up. Your. Ass. And.Then.Some.

  26. 2 users say thank you to binnie for this KICKASS post:

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    Alter Bridge – Last Hero (2016)

    On paper Alter Bridge have all the makings of a truly great rock band. A guitar hero (Mark Tremonti), check. A singer with pipes capable of levelling cities (Myles Kennedy), check. Stadium-ready choruses, check. Chops, check. A sound which contains the component DNA of hard rock but remains unique, check. So why, then, do we struggle to really LOVE this band? The problems lies in the sense that what they lack in out and out excitement – the rebellious joie de vive which fuels the shuffle in all great rock – they replace with an overkill of bombast. Every vocal line is squeezed for maximum earnestness, every fill played within an inch of its life, every song crammed with layers and layers of production to create something so huge that it overwhelms. For a 4 minute song this has impact: but on a 14 song, 66 minute album it is an absolutely exhausting display of over-sincerity which leaves your head spinning in a sea wailing musicianship and world-weary lyricism.

    Alter Bridge have never made a bad record, and with this level of talent they probably never will. ‘…Hero’ contains some frankly superb moments – the riff for all ages on ‘My Champion’, the stadium-filler thrust of ‘Show Me a Leader’ and the hooks that kill in ‘Poison in Your Veins’ – and like all Alter Bridge albums you can’t fault the song-writing or the quantity of the quality on display here. But by God you wish they’d just loosen up, stop overthinking every last second, and have some more big, dumb, fun. Less is more fellas, less if definitely more……..

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    Uncle Acid – The Night Creeper (2016)

    Some bands are just cool. You can’t put your finger on why, they just are. And despite being the brainchild of a man called Kevin – second only to Nigel on the ‘least cool names’ leader board – Uncle Acid are one of those bands. Cool drips from this record, it infects every particle of air it touches, and as the your breathe in that air you will become cooler. After two spins you’ll be a mack daddy, Tarratino villain, hip shaking, jive-talking, badass level cool mo fo. ‘The Night Creeper’ serves up proto-metal humping the living shit out of glam rock – think T. Rex covering Blue Cheer and you’re somewhere close. The macabre evil of the one is offset by the pop sensibilities of the other, and the result is something which is infinitely listenable and deeply, deeply enjoyable. ‘Waiting for Blood’ swings like vintage Sabbath and Kev’s spacey vocals sprinkle the darkness with a douse of star dust; ‘Murder Nights’ is mid-60s psychedelica propelled by a demonic guitar; and the likes of ‘Pusher Man’ and ‘Downtown’ force you to sit back and just do with it – think Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, The Band……..playing Sabbath and Stooges covers after dropping all of the available LSD in a 100 miles radius. Tales of pushers, murderers, back alleys and the delicate hopes on which hedonism rides, Uncle Acid serve up tunes with enough bluster, rhythm and viscous melodies to make your soul glow a luminous shade of black. Bloomin’ marvelous.

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    Testament – Brotherhood of the Snake (2016)

    Since ‘The Gathering’ (1999) Testament have been on a run of truly great records. ‘Brotherhood….’ continues that run. Last time out – ‘The Dark Roots of Earth’ (2012) – the band served up a largely mid-paced record comprised of potent mixture of anthems and epics. Here, their sights are firmly set on speed and simplicity. And by God is it good. Plenty of bands can play fast and heavy. Few, however, can do so while crafting songs which are memorable. Testament have always been amongst the few and ‘Brotherhood…’ contains some damn fine burst of thrash metal elevated by hooks, quirks and character into damn fine songs. The title track is burst of blast beats and a guitar sound which proves that Testament are the kings of crunch; ‘Stronghold’ has a riff to end of riffs and is made for the mosh pit; ‘Centuries of Suffering’ is the sound of fire raining from the sky and deserves to be barked by baying crowds across the globe; and closer ‘The Number Game’ is a pure neck wrecker, militia-like thrash which is about as heavy as music can be. Best of all, however, is ‘Neptune’s Spear’: as good a metal song as you will hear this year, this is a mini epic which combines lashing of quality ideas without collapsing under the weight of its own complexity.

    10 3-4 minute songs with no let up, ‘Brotherhood…’ is a furious metal record. Featuring a who’s who of thrash metal – drum lord Gene Hoglan and bass impresario Steve Di Gigorio joining long timers Eric Peterson, Alex Skolnick and Chuck Billy – the performances shine through and Andy Sneaps mix serves the individual as well the collective. Plenty of legends have released good thrash records this year (Anthrax, Megadeth, Sodom, Death Angel, Destruction) but Testament not only flatten them they prove themselves capable of living with any of metal’s younger lions, too.
    Bang. Thy. Head.

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    Quote Originally Posted by binnie View Post
    Testament – Brotherhood of the Snake (2016)

    Since ‘The Gathering’ (1999) Testament have been on a run of truly great records. ‘Brotherhood….’ continues that run. Last time out – ‘The Dark Roots of Earth’ (2012) – the band served up a largely mid-paced record comprised of potent mixture of anthems and epics. Here, their sights are firmly set on speed and simplicity. And by God is it good. Plenty of bands can play fast and heavy. Few, however, can do so while crafting songs which are memorable. Testament have always been amongst the few and ‘Brotherhood…’ contains some damn fine burst of thrash metal elevated by hooks, quirks and character into damn fine songs. The title track is burst of blast beats and a guitar sound which proves that Testament are the kings of crunch; ‘Stronghold’ has a riff to end of riffs and is made for the mosh pit; ‘Centuries of Suffering’ is the sound of fire raining from the sky and deserves to be barked by baying crowds across the globe; and closer ‘The Number Game’ is a pure neck wrecker, militia-like thrash which is about as heavy as music can be. Best of all, however, is ‘Neptune’s Spear’: as good a metal song as you will hear this year, this is a mini epic which combines lashing of quality ideas without collapsing under the weight of its own complexity.

    10 3-4 minute songs with no let up, ‘Brotherhood…’ is a furious metal record. Featuring a who’s who of thrash metal – drum lord Gene Hoglan and bass impresario Steve Di Gigorio joining long timers Eric Peterson, Alex Skolnick and Chuck Billy – the performances shine through and Andy Sneaps mix serves the individual as well the collective. Plenty of legends have released good thrash records this year (Anthrax, Megadeth, Sodom, Death Angel, Destruction) but Testament not only flatten them they prove themselves capable of living with any of metal’s younger lions, too.
    Bang. Thy. Head.
    I'm only a few songs into it but it seems that Testament have another winner.

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    Quote Originally Posted by binnie View Post
    Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways (2014)

    On paper, album number 8 from the Foo Fighters sounds intriguing. An out-and-out rock band explores the rich avenues of popular music in America by recording each of the 8 songs on its new album in a different pivotal musical city. Accompanied by a HBO documentary lavishly detailing the music of the cities in question from the street up, ‘Sonic Highways’ is very much an extension of Dave Grohl’s ‘Sound City’ documentary from several years ago. The documentaries are wonderful pieces – full of the scent of each city, packed with the enthusiasm which goes hand-in-hand with musical geekery, and resonating Grohl’s natural warmth, they were clearer labours of love and produced with affection and humility. But the album itself? It’s quite a mess.

    And that is a real shame. In 2011 Foo Fighter’s last album, ‘Wasting Light’, was an absolute beast. Tune after tune of what the Foos do best: power pop belted out from the gut and made for the garage. With no filler, and few clichés, this was Grohl and company in the best Tom Petty, Cheap Trick, and Blondie tradition – hook-laden tunes which tear your heart out and give it back to you better. But ‘Sonic Highways’ reverts back to type – yet another half-baked Foo Fighters record made by a bunch of guys who know all too well that when the tour of the megadomes begins, they’ll only ever have to play a couple of these tunes to an audience who want to hear the hits anyway. The whole thing feels like a vanity project, an excuse to make a documentary.

    So, anyone expecting the Foos to delve into the sonic depths of each of the cities in question – the Foos do country (Nashville), the Foos do blues (Chicago), the Foos do California rock (LA) – is going to be sorely disappointed. Sure, there are a host of guests on each track, but aside from solos by Joe Walsh and Gary Clark Jr you’ll be lucky to notice them because, ultimate, this is just another Foo Fighters record. That in itself is no bad thing, but the songs just don’t cut it – overlong where this band works best as a concise beast, and full of jams where they work best with traditional structures, ‘Sonic Highways’ is a frustratingly meandering trip at times. Sure, it has its moments – ‘Something For Nothing’ is a typical Foos belter, and ‘Congregation’ shows what the album could have been – but the amount of self-indulgence here is nauseating. Closer ‘I Am A River’ is longer than a Peter Jackson film, without any of the special effects.

    Three years ago, Foo Fighters had a late career high. ‘Sonic Highways’ is such a disappointment. Those who like their rock unchallenging and built for the radio may take it or leave it, but those of us who know that this band can do so much better will be hugely disappointed.
    I have a somewhat difficult relationship with the Foo Fighters.

    I thought (and still do) the first two Foos albums were really good American hard-edged rock albums, with some tracks and moments on those albums that transcended to rock brilliance. The first album was Grohl top-to-bottom, and the second one was for the most part another Grohl album. I think part of the reason those two albums stood out at the time is due to the fact that by the time the grunge explosion was dying in terms of airplay and visibility, there weren't really many bands out there getting a high degree of exposure that were delivering really good American hard-edged rock music in the manner that the Foos/Grohl were.

    I started checking out when the third album, There Is Nothing Left To Lose, was released. Mostly because by then there was a Foo Fighters songwriting template in place in terms of structure, and very little from There Is onward connected with me in the visceral way the first two Foos albums had. It's weird, because I've never been one of those fans who happened to get in on the ground floor of an up and coming band and then reflexively dislike them when they became popular solely because they became popular: as long as the music still connected with me, I could give a shit if masses of people who hadn't heard of them before were now listening to them. Oddly, with Foo Fighters, the bigger they got and the more by way of reverence that was directed toward Grohl, the less I was enjoying what the band were doing. Perhaps not so odd when I really think about it, because by the time the 1990s were coming to a close, I'd had my fill of being screamed at by Grohl in every other Foo chorus. Also, the thing that struck me about Grohl is the same thing I always felt about Eddie Vedder, which is they both give off this vibe of studied/practiced angst in their songwriting: the emotional content they try to put across never strikes me as 100% authentic. There's always this aura of contrivance there. It's nothing tangible I can put into words, rather I gut feeling I get at times when listening to them sing and the lyrics they write...that to varying degrees they are pretentiously faking it. And then there are the repeated instances with both Grohl and Vedder where they are surrounded by various rock icons who were looking to extend their careers or relevance by hooking onto Grohl's and Vedder's relevance with younger record buyers (back when people were still actually buying records), and I'm sitting there thinking that Foo Fighters and Pearl Jam were good bands who had some great moments, yet it seemed mildly embarrassing to see members of groups like Led Zeppelin, Motorhead, The Ramones or The Doors jamming/palling around with those guys. Simply put, neither the Foos or Pearl Jam were ever THAT good in my book. Neither band reached legendary status in my book, either.

    I'd agree 100% that Wasting Light was a late career high, and was/is my favorite Foo album after the first 2. I mean, shit, the first listen I had of Rope knocked me back and had me nodding my head in approval. Sonic Highways was certainly a step away from what the Foos did best, and I don't think the Foos or Grohl really have the ability or the talent to take what they did best to another level as they get older. The best they can hope for is more of the same, only not quite as good. I tend to doubt the Foos are going to broaden the music as they age, and in the end will be very much of their time with a few albums that will prove to be lasting. Like, I'm not the hugest U2 fan out there, but that band was still managing to come up with stuff 25 years after their first album was released that reminded you of why they were great in the first place. Outside of Wasting Light, the Foos have been pretty slim pickins for me since 1997. They certainly don't have a consistently excellent body of work that earns them a place among the best rock bands of all time. I think it has more to do with them being one of the last rock bands standing than anything else.
    Last edited by Terry; 02-11-2017 at 07:23 PM.

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    I remember back in '97, I think it was '97, the Foo Fighters played at City Fest in Charlotte. People actually threw bricks at the stage. I was there but I still have no idea why those idiots threw bricks at them.
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    Quote Originally Posted by binnie View Post
    If anyone has any requests, I'm happy to take them (assuming I own the album in question, of course).
    Binnie, Tesseract ´s Polaris perhaps?
    Tesseract last US tour opening for Gojira was very succesfull, they certainly won a lot of new fans.
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    Tommy Lee - Never a Dull Moment

    AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson

    When word got around that Tommy Lee's first solo album, Never a Dull Moment, would be coming out in May 2002, fans didn't know what to expect. Would the album pick up where Lee's Methods of Mayhem project of 1999 left off? Or would it, by some chance, recall his years with Mötley Crüe? The latter seemed unlikely because when Lee left Mötley Crüe in the late '90s, he had obviously grown frustrated with that band and was yearning to try something totally different. As it turns out, Never a Dull Moment is neither a carbon copy of Methods of Mayhem nor a return to a Mötley Crüe-like sound. The material on this fairly diverse CD (which Lee produced with Scott Humphrey) generally falls into the alternative metal and alternative rock categories; many of the tunes are hip-hop-influenced, but few of them are straight-up rap-metal in the Limp Bizkit/Korn/(hed) pe/Kid Rock vein. And for the most part, Never a Dull Moment sounds more organic than Methods of Mayhem's 1999 album, which gave the impression that Lee was trying a little too hard to be contemporary (by late-'90s standards) and prove to the world that there was more to him than "Shout at the Devil" and "Girls, Girls, Girls"; even so, Methods of Mayhem's debut was, despite its imperfections, one of the more memorable rap-metal efforts of 1999. But on Never a Dull Moment, a 39-year-old Lee sounds like he has grown more comfortable in his new rap-influenced, techno-influenced alterna-metal/alterna-rock wardrobe -- and that wardrobe ranges from raucous, in-your-face party jams ("Higher," "Face to Face") to songs that are tuneful and surprisingly thoughtful ("Ashamed," "Hold Me Down"). Not every track on Never a Dull Moment is a five-star gem, but more often than not, the CD is an exciting, inspired reminder of Lee's desire to forge ahead.
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    Quote Originally Posted by DONNIEP View Post
    I remember back in '97, I think it was '97, the Foo Fighters played at City Fest in Charlotte. People actually threw bricks at the stage. I was there but I still have no idea why those idiots threw bricks at them.
    Was it bricks of cocaine?
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    What happened to Binnie ?
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    Thank You Next is the best album in 2019
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    Quote Originally Posted by David45 View Post
    Thank You Next is the best album in 2019
    I'm not sure you are at the right site.
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