Yes. I was born in the early 1980’s and, yes, you’re right, I was raised during the grunge era with a little addition of early industrial/quazi-industrial/you name it. Of course, when the journey through the world of music starts, finally you realize that you’re 15, totally addicted to internet and new media, however, still being able to appreciate some of the classic rock acts (awright, awright, my dad is a huuuuge Frank Zappa fan, so, naturally, I was born, raised and nurtured on Frank Zappa). Still, when this year two popular bands from the 1990’s released new albums after yeeeeaaars of silence, I had a feeling like I was back to school. Ah, c’mon guys, you know the feeling – being 30, working as a corporate clone, feeling free and young back again while listening to bands we used to listen 15 years ago. Whoah! Wind in your hair! X-D
What’s most important here – the albums that I am thinking of really surprised me. And – yes – in a positive meaning of this ancient word 😉
First of all. Hole. Courtney Love is pretty special in the world of American rock. Sure, controversial. Sure, accused of most horrible things including killing her legendary husband. But, putting gossips aside, she IS a woman with one of the strongest, most influential personalities in rock music. And, a woman with a very strong, husky voice that’s absolutely born for rock. She’s made some mistakes, one of which was the release of her solo album (although I cannot say I hate it totally; it’s not bad, it’s just… weak… very mediocre, very much below her abilities, and, therefore, a major disappointment). She’s made a difficult turn from harsh, almost punk-like rock to a more pop-version of soft rock. And even though many bands did this in the end of 1990’s (most notably, Smashing Pumpkins) it is pretty natural for hard rock fans to loathe such transformations. I still support my earlier statement that Pretty on the Inside is the best album by Hole – very raw, very garage-like, full of ultra-feminist, punk, frustrated lyrics, not mentioning heavily drugged guitar riffs. Who remembers Good Sister/Bad Sister or Teenage Whore, knows what I’m talking about. Live Through This was much more commercial but still good – Credit in the Straight World (strong punk influence) being my favorite song of this album. From Celebrity Skin I got more and more disappointed. But, on the other hand, it was inevitable – Hole had to evolve from a garage band to a commercial soft-rock success. And a new era started – an era of songs which are not specifically unique or raw but simply amusing and easy to listen to. Not being a huge fan of music that is “easy”, I do not value Celebrity Skin so much. But I got used to the fact that Courtney Love became a commercial product. And, no, I don’t mean to be rude – after all, all of us, rock fans, do love Madonna 😀
So, back to my point, I got used to the changes in the music world. I don’t despise a band that turned out to be more commercial then they used to be. I don’t call them sell outs, I still listen to early as well as late recordings of Korn/System of a Down/etc. and even though I prefer the early ones, I am able to appreciate a commercial-success, sell-out (damn! I said it!) album.
Consequently, I did not have high expectations when it comes to the newest album by Hole. I didn’t expect Love to raise her band from the grave and to go back to her raw, punk/garage/pre-Seattle roots. What I had in mind, though, was a feeling that she cannot cope with the music business anymore and that Nobody’s Daughter would be more like her solo record which disappointed me greatly. And… no… in the case of the newest album I wasn’t disappointed. Of course it’s soft-rock, of course it’s commercial, of course it doesn’t satisfy my needs for something stronger, darker and, most of all, more complicated. But this is one of the albums that you’ll be glad to have in your iPod while being on a 3-week hiking in the middle of nowhere. It’s catchy, it’s relaxing, it’s actually… pretty summer-like (omg, I said it), it’s positive and energetic. All the eleven songs – and I mean it.
A few words about the songs:
Two songs which are opening the album – Nobody’s Daughter and Skinny Little Bitch – absolutely written to become hit singles. And, actually Skinny Little Bitch is the first single to promote the album. Btw, you may find such a comparison funny but, in my opinion, Skinny Little Bitch is perfect as a background song for NASCAR X-D
Someone Else’s Bed – going back to the core of American rock music
For Once in Your Life – rock ballad, piano, string section and a bit corny, pathetic rhythm that would turn into Sheryl Crow only if it wasn’t for the (so typical of her) rock whining of the strongest female rock voice that, and I still do believe that, belongs to Courtney Love. Somehow reminds me of Silverchair (LMAO, do you remember that band? After years, with some exceptions when it comes to their songs, I find them utterly funny X-D)
Letter to God – reminds me of Lou Reed or early Nick Cave, one of the best songs of the whole album – in terms of music as well as lyrics, you can interpret it as a sort of Love’s personal confession.
Loser Dust – Courtney still remembers her punk roots although they’re much filtered through what she’s been doing for the last 10 years.
How Dirty Girls Get Clean – a very surprising song, by the way. Much more rough than the whole album, much more rough than whole Celebrity Skin, a little step further and it could fit Live Through This. It actually proves that Love feels better with emotional and personal lyrics. How Dirty Girls Get Clean together with Letter to God are definitely the best songs of the album.
Pacific Coast Highway – the worst song of the album, the new version of Malibu (the title is not the only resemblance, unfortunately). Love should quit it with these summer-beach-surfing fixation of hers Just quit it, Courtney, quit it, quit it! Arghghgh! (I read somewhere that it’s chosen as the second single… damn!)
Who’s most noticeable among the musicians? The bassist! Goddamn, that’s some good work outta there. Check out for yourselves. Let’s hope Love keeps Shawn Dailey in the band.
When it comes to her singing, the older she gets, the more she reminds me of Marianne Faithfull. And no, not because both of them are Jewish X-D
Funny. The same thing happened to me when it comes to Stone Temple Pilots who also released a new album after 9 years of silence. No. 4 disappointed me a bit but I, somehow, managed to connect it to the tendency of turning from a rock god of the 90’s to a commercial sell out (yes, I said it again). Btw, I’m constantly surprised by how consequent reviewers are when they classify this album as an example of contemporary psychedelic rock. I don’t know what you think, guys, but “contemporary psychedelic rock” is more like Mars Volta to me than No. 4. Scott Weiland’s solo album was a major disappointment for me. Shangri-La Dee Da was much better but still… somehow… I didn’t “buy” it. And now… this. Still not what I would like to hear from Stone Temple Pilots, but it’s a good album.
And yes, I won’t say anything new here but Stone Temple Pilots is a very nice mix of genres and different influences. From blues, the 1960’s, the Doors, through David Bowie up to early Aerosmith. Ok, it’s not an ambitious project. It’s not an album that could be compared to Core or Purple, or even to Tiny Music… Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop, but… damn! It’s good. Actually each of the songs could promote the album. Most of them are fresh, even though deeply rooted in various musical styles, most of them are energetic, catchy and – Weiland’s voice. In the beginning I found it hard with getting used to it. I preferred the deep voice he had while recording the first two albums by STP. Also, until today, I am very much convinced that Weiland’s vocal style is as much dependant on Jim Morrison or David Bowie as it depends on singers of the 1950’s (yeah, I said it, even if you don’t believe your own eyes), e.g. Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett. Today, Weiland’s voice is more flat, more sharp, more edgy. And, though it was hard for me in the beginning, I think I… kinda like it. It adds some spice to the melodic songs that are soooo typical of STP.
Definitely worth listening! From A to Z. Between the Lines is like an overture to a symphony or an opera – it gives you the taste of the whole album compressed in less than 3 minutes 🙂 Melodic, rhythmic, relaxed, confident rock. And, frankly, even if you think it’s corny, this is what I always liked about STP. I like them the way they are – not pretending to be something bigger, not pretending to be tortured, martyred artists with god-knows-what concept behind everything they do. To me STP seem like a band of well trained professionals. People who are good musicians, perform their music well, make it amusing, make you relax. And, frankly, I admire that. There’s definitely too many musicians with a mission and cryptic messages sent out to the suffering world X-D STP know how to play their music well and are true to what they’re doing.
Favorite tracks of the album?
Hickory Dichotomy – blues influence and… I would even say that there is something country-like in it. Weiland is half-singing, half-talking, the guitar solo – pure American dream of Midwest 😉 Great!
Dare If You Dare – soft rock with some addition of the 1960’s or 1970’s. Too soft in a way (ok, I’m more into hard rock STP) but – frankly – after listening to the whole album, it’s one of the melodies that sticks to your mind for a long, long time. You just can’t help singing together with Weiland 😀
Bagman – if the Beatles were American and recorded their albums in 1990’s, this is how it would sound… On the other hand, there is some of Rolling Stones influence in it.
Samba Nova – absolutely surprising track! And I absolutely love it! And I support my thesis that Weiland was raised not only on Morrison, but also classical songs of the 1950’s 🙂
All in all – a very good album! Congratulations to STP!
As a final thought to this whole, loooong post. Two things:
1. I’m just hoping that in the course of prodigal sons/daughters coming back to their bands (Hole, Stone Temple Pilots, Jane’s Addiction, Faith No More although it’s hard to call Mike Patton a prodigal son cause this guy is a genius and I don’t remember a single album he’s released that would be below my expectations) someone will kick the butt of Chris Cornell cause since the breakup of Soundgarden this guy became a sort of a sinking ship – maybe except for a brief affair with the guys of Rage Against the Machine, but Audioslave was still much below the level of RATM, so… still… a sinking ship, sorry Chris.
2. The only question remains – why are most of the bands of my childhood switching from hard rock to easy-to-listen rock ballads? I thought you’d do it, when you become a grandpa. Aerosmith? Ringing any bells? On the other hand, most of these guys are way over 40. Shit… I’m getting old! X-D