Phish – Joy
September 8, 2009
Victim of Loudness War? No
Typically, when a band reconvenes after publicly hanging it up and going their separate ways for a number of years, the magic just isn’t there. Usually, there is a distinct reason the band chose to end their run in the first place and more often than not that reason proves valid. In the case of Phish, the four members had decided that they had run out of creative gas after fifteen years and wanted to individually move into different projects. This was pretty apparent by giving a listen to either of the band’s last two studio releases, 2002’s Round Room and 2004’s Undermind. While both contain some truly excellent additions to the Phish catalog, both albums simmer rather than boil and never really reach the high standard the band had established for itself from its inception in the late 1980s.
Therefore, when Phish announced in mid-2009 that they were getting back together for a Summer tour and a new studio release, there was a certain amount of apprehension about the whole deal. Although the guys had been successful in their solo endeavours (particularly singer/guitarist Trey Anastasio, who continued to sell out theaters nationwide with the various incarnations of his touring band), none had matched the artistic or commercial success they had under the Phish banner. Plus, several members of the band had expressed their utter frustration and lack of motivation within the group and made it quite clear that the band would not reunite in the future. After all, they had already taken a two-year hiatus from late 2000 through New Year’s Eve 2002, so the fact that they closed up shop a mere two years later indicated that the spark that lit the fire was simply not there anymore. Everything seemed to add up to one big cash grab for all those involved. Continue reading
The Black Crowes – Before the Frost…Until the Freeze
August 31, 2009
Silver Arrow Records
Victim of Loudness War? No
The Black Crowes have long been established as one of rock and roll’s pre-eminent live acts. Over the last 20 years, they have pushed boundaries on stages across the world, refusing to play their hits, choosing to instead melt faces with soaring guitar duels, earthy jams, outtakes from album sessions, B-sides to singles, new originals, re-worked originals, or a myriad assortment of well-chosen and expertly executed covers. The unfortunate thing is, like a majority of bands who are vitally potent on stage, that vitality does not always translate onto record.
In the case of the Black Crowes, the studio catalog has been spotty at best. Discounting The Lost Crowes (a rarities collection released in 2006 comprised from unreleased sessions recorded from 1993-1997), the Crowes’ recorded output the past 10 years has ranged from tentative but earnest (last year’s “comeback” Warpaint) to non-cohesive experimentation (2001’s Lions), to a downright awful parody of themselves (1999’s By Your Side). Even a live album (2002’s Live), which should have been the Crowes’ “ace in the hole,” failed to impress, mostly due to conservative song selection light on the jamming which defines their live experience, a sub-par line-up, and a very murky mix (very much a victim of the “Loudness War,” it is almost unlistenable). Continue reading
Arctic Monkeys – Humbug
September 1, 2009
Victim of Loudness War? Yes
The Arctic Monkeys underwent a great deal of criticism when they first appeared in 2005, mostly due to the level of hype surrounding their second single, “I Bet You Look Good On the Dancefloor.” The band was catapulted into the spotlight, seemingly from oblivion, and received praise after praise for their take on the British Indie-rock sound. Thus, the backlash against them came fairly quickly, mostly from critics that think themselves too cool for the room and staunchly against anything approaching the mainstream. But which side of the argument had the most merit? Were the Arctic Monkeys a breath of fresh air or a cash-in on the successes of those that came before them? Continue reading