Sonic Disorder: Human Kind (Album Review)
Review by Rob Watts. Follow @RobWattsOnline
Boston’s Sonic Disorder continues to develop and refine its template of hard-edged, yet melodic sound on their sophomoric effort Human Kind. Their long-awaited follow-up to their 2008 debut release reaches for new heights—having largely eschewed the grunge/punk overtones of their previous album, Human Kind solicits a more somber downcast, riding tandem with a captivated and intoxicated vibe. Engineered for instant impact, songs such as Dirty Window, Demons in the Dark and the title track showcase well-balanced drum and bass thumping, blended perfectly with the gazing guitar overlay. Songs such as A Sign of Things to Come? carries a beautifully pensive and moody tone throughout the track and features a well-placed atmospheric cello performance by guitarist Jeff Briggette. Toy Soldier Part One, leading into Toy Soldier is a progressive step ahead while still maintaining that foggy, misty morning framework that the band started on their debut. Saturated with wavy guitars and a pounding backbeat, it’s surely destined to be a live crowd pleaser. Human Kind features new vocalist Steve DiPersio, replacing former frontman Jeff Boyle. Fans of the band won’t sense such a blatant exchange, however, as DiPersio delivers everything that was great about their debut album while maintaining his own identity as a perfectly-metered rock vocalist. Just Another Day truly shines a light on his soulful, melodic and hard rock abilities. Human Kind certainly eclipses their previous release in regards to songwriting, melody and structure. This in no way diminishes the value of that album. It simply states that Sonic Disorder used their gap of time between releases to their advantage, creating a focused and cohesive collection of music that is worthy of their dedicated fans’ patience.
Learn more about the band and their album at SonicDisorder.com
Metric: Pagans in Vegas (Album Review)
Review by Rob Watts. Follow @RobWattsOnline
Robot Rock at its finest. I’m not paying it a compliment, though. Pagans in Vegas, the Toronto-based synth-pop-rock quartet lead by Broken Social Scene Alumna Emily Haynes, have released their sixth full-length album this week to much hurrah and hoopla. It’s always hard to review an album by one of your favorite bands where you just don’t feel the excitement and good energy that they once gave you. Sadly, after giving this album a few listens, I went reaching for Fantasies (2009) and Synthetica (2012), “Pagans” far-superior predecessors.
While hearing Pagans in Vegas, I did find the opening track Lie, Lie, Lie to be a solid intro. Haynes trademark vocals (which is the highlight of all Metric albums) come off sweet yet venomous, as do they with Fortunes. By the time we arrive at The Shade, I feel as though I’m walking through a video arcade from hell. On Shade, which features tremendous songwriting and solid hooks, I’m distracted by the continuous Donkey Kong-like tones throughout the track. Luckily, the acoustic bonus track was included on my copy, which makes this song much more enjoyable for me. Celebrate is standout track for me as the flow between Haynes and her band mates is undeniably fluid.
Where it begins to take a downturn for me is on Cascades. Not a bad track, but the band begins to sound slick and anodyne. I start hearing other bands in the music—bands that Metric inspired and laid the template for, not the other way around. Rather than recognizing hints of Depeche Mode and Lou Reed, I hear heavy-handed lifts of CHVRCHES and Shiny Toy Guns, as evident on songs such as The Other Side and Too Bad, So Sad (possibly the most annoying song on the album.) It’s the inconsistency that bothers me the most about this album. Something about it lacks focus—it just falls all over the place, whereas their previous two albums were solid with laser sharp focus. I don’t think Pagans in Vegas knows what it wants to be. Especially when one listeners to the self-indulgent two-part epic closer The Face Part one and two. By the end of the album, I’m left wondering did the entire band even perform their instruments on this album, or did they simply rely on synths? I’m hard pressed to hear any guitars or bass with any level of significance.
The album isn’t a total wash in my mind. It’s just not my favorite offering from the band. While there are moments of brilliance on the album, I’m disappointed that the amount of songs that grab me only add up to an e.p.’s worth of material.
Visit I Love Metric for album details and purchasing info.
Silversun Pickups: Better Nature (Album Review)
By Rob Watts. Follow @RobWattsOnline
One of the coolest things about a new album by Silversun Pickups is that it reminds you of an old friend who comes to dinner—once again, with even more interesting stories to tell since last time. The Los Angeles-based quartet’s ever-expanding sound comes accross impeccably on their fourth full-length album, Better Nature which comes out on September 25th via their own New Machine Recordings.
Produced once again by Jacknife Lee (who helmed their previous effort Neck of the Woods), their sprawling cinematic sound pours outward from every track, as evident from the opener Crawling (Better Nature.) Lead vocalist and guitarist Brian Aubert‘s shimmering guitar tone and unique vocal range open things up with a familiar feel but as it progresses, the album takes you to new places unlike any of the band’s previous releases. Connection and Pins and Needles pull out all the stops, with tight guitar riffs, in your face drum and bass rhythms, and of course Joe Lester‘s haunting ethereal backdrops.
Friendly Fires is a slow-paced declaration, followed by lead-off single Nightlights, which is probably the closest track that bares resemblance to anything found on 2012s Neck of the Woods. Circadian Rhythm (Last Dance), the latest single employs bassist Nikki Monninger‘s vocals as she trades verses with Aubert in a prominent manner. The track, as well as much of the album, feels like a hint of an 80s throwback—but just a hint. Tapedeck, probably the quirkiest of the collection, showcases drummer Christophen Gaunlao‘s upbeat tempos quite nicely as the song throws the listener all over the place as the track turns off every which way. Latchkey Kids falls back on familiar SSPU territory with straight-ahead musicianship, while Ragamuffin walks you down dark pathways once again with its ominous opening chords. The Wild Ones plays the listener out wonderfully with each musician utilized perfectly, which is really what we’ve come to expect from this band.
With stellar production, new recording techniques, gang vocals, the implementing of Monninger’s vocals to a greater extent and an overall recharge from the band as they move forward—taking reign of their own career, this is an album worth supporting.
Better Nature Out Sept. 25th. Visit SilversunPickups.com
Review and photos by Rob Watts. Follow @RobWattsOnline
Intro to Alien Invasion by Owen King, Mark Jude Poirier and Nancy Ahn.
Stretching their wings as a collaborative team, novelist Owen King, novelist/screenwriter Mark Jude Poirier and illustrator Nancy Ahn bound together to create Intro to Alien Invasion, available now via Scribner. The graphic novel is a humorous tale of college campus life at the fictional Fenton College in which college student and overachiever Stacey experiences a communication collapse on her campus just as an alien invasion is happening. With her friends in tow, they must battle to survive the unannounced visit of the aliens.
The story is entertaining and well-executed, while the graphic design is beautifully crafted, easily interpreted and well-paced. As far as graphic novels go, this one is perfect for gift giving, bathroom reading or just general escapism at various points of your day.
I was fortunate enough to attend a local book signing in which all three collaborators were present. Author’s Owen King and Mark Jude Poirier read humorous manifestos recalling their own fictitious (I assume) recollection of the initial pitch to produce this novel. Illustrator Nancy Ahn provided the actual storyboard stills used in the novel for viewing to anyone in attendance. The three were all very informative, entertaining and charming. The project appears to have been a great deal of fun for the collaborative. I wish them luck with it.
More information on the book and purchasing detail can be found at Owen King’s Website
Illustrator Nancy Ahn, author Mark Jude Poirier and author Own King
Marilyn Manson: Live at Blue Hills Bank Pavillion. Boston 7-28-2015
Marilyn Manson at Blue Hills Bank Pavilion
Review and Photos by Rob Watts. Follow Rob @RobWattsOnline
Just over twenty years into his illustrious and controversial career, legions of dedicated and adoring fans stood loud and proud as Manson and his band took to the darkened and ominous stage. It was a thunderous entry as the band and frontman ripped into Deep Six from his recent studio effort The Pale Impaler. The clarity in the musicianship was apparent immediately as his band’s performance, especially Twiggy’s bass playing, was crystal clear and extremely tight. Manson, unlike many shows in the past, was in top form and highly active on stage as he moved on to Disposable Teens and mOBSENE. Highly animated, Manson engaged along with the crowd, especially the young females in close proximity. Obliged to perform the crowd pleasing covers Sweet Dreams (are made of this) and Personal Jesus, the band continued on with stellar originals such as No Reflection, Rock is Dead and The Dope Show. Theatrically, it was an amazingly visual set, although it was the same bag of tricks; the altar and burning bible, the crucifix, the stilts and so on. The set ended with the well-loved The Beautiful People, and Coma White was performed beautifully as an encore. So what you will, Manson still has it and brought it with him to Boston!
Photo by Rob Watts
Smashing Pumpkins at Blue Hills Bank Pavilion
Smashing Pumpkins at Blue Hills Bank Pavilion July 28, 2015
Review by Rob Watts. Follow Rob @RobWattsOnline
First there was the acoustic pre-show, where Pumpkins founder and frontman Billy Corgan laid down three beautiful renditions of Purr Snickerty, Perfect and Dorian (the latter two accompanied by guitarist Jeff Schroeder.) Followed by a Q and A between Corgan and the 17 of us in front of him. Corgan was in relaxed form and very gracious to the various fans and media professionals seated in front of him. No question was off limits as he gave explanations in his sometimes long-winded yet informative manner. As he’d made mention of his 25 years of coming through Boston, I’d asked him what his fondest memory of playing in Boston over the years. He told me it was an early performance at the tiny Cambridge, MA club called T.T The Bears Place, where the temperature was so intense, he poured a bucket of water over his head on stage.
Later in the evening, as the Pumpkins took to the stage for their full-length show, they leveled the crowd with Cherub Rock, followed by Bullet with Butterfly Wings and Tonight, Tonight. Little on stage banter was shared with the audience, but rather a full-blown rock show filled to the brim with Smashing Pumpkin classics, something that dedicated fans haven’t heard played on stage in quite some time. Aside from Drum and Fife, One and All and Run2Me from their well-received Monuments to an Elegy album, the rest of the set played like a greatest hits album. From Ava Adore to Zero to Disarm, the band aimed to please with this rare live glimpse of the band’s yesteryear. As predicted, once 1979 was performed, many fans walked off and called it a night. As Corgan announced that since the fair weather fans and posers had left, they would continue on stage with some hard rockers, as was evident with the thunderous United States from the album Zeitgeist and Stand Inside Your Love from Machina.
Adding to the excitement of the rock-solid performance was the inclusion of original drummer Jimmy Chamberlin who fit right back in behind the skins as if he’d never left. Complimenting his backbone beat was the inclusion of bassist Jack Bates, son of legendary New Order and Joy Division bassist Peter Hook. He fit in very well and added an element of style and coolness on stage. The band ended the show with an encore of Today, which ended the party nicely.
Corgan during his Q and A Session
Billy Corgan and Jeff Schroeder performing “Perfect.”
Billy Corgan During “One and All.”
Out of their Shadows by Ranjana Kamo
Review by Rob Watts
A wonderfully told story about faith, love, commitment and success. Two of the protagonists, particularly Nita and Sagar, are very well developed and are easily identifiable for the reader. The challenges that they face within the story are very relatable issues that anyone can attest to at one point or another in their life. Without giving anything away, Nita is on a journey towards success, but not the type of success one might automatically assume. Her personal journey towards her goal is one of dedication and drive, despite the pitfalls that lie ahead. Sagar has romantic feelings for someone (I won’t say who) and must gather up the courage to share his true feelings. He could be denied the happiness he’s in search of if he doesn’t. The story as a whole is very inspiring. It forces the reader to take stock in the gifts we’ve been given in life, as well as appreciating the tools afforded to us in life to go after what we really want. As cleverly implemented in the story, it’s patience, dedication, faith and loyalty that truly get us to the achievements we seek in life. Ranjana Kamo has a wonderfully unique way of getting this across to the reader in a very entertaining and subtle fashion.
Purchase Out of their Shadows at Amazon.com