This is officially my last work day with Lala. This makes me very sad. My other music site was Finetune, but that’s been rendered impotent for a couple of years now, I think (my playlists are still there, but I can’t listen to them). I’m pretty much left with Pandora (which gets old REALLY fast) or Grooveshark, which is not nearly as good as Lala, despite its praise from my friends. It’s content is similar to Napster and Kazaa in that you sometimes can’t find every song on an album, they’re listed out of order, and sometimes the sound quality is poor. I’ll have to make due somehow, I suppose. If you know a better site than these for listening to free music, link me up.
One of the problems of being a music fan is that it can get expensive, and there’s nothing worse than spending your hard-earned money on a CD that turns out to be awful. Back pre-2003/04, I would often buy a CD by a band based off of nothing more than someone I knew with similar tastes to mine mentioning them, or wearing their shirt. Sometimes I took that leap of faith and was rewarded, and other times it turned out to be quite a bad move. Most of the time, however, I would just be too nervous to go through with the purchase without knowing what I was getting. Due to this fact, there is a very long list of albums and bands that I always meant to check out but never could. On other sites (i.e. Finetune and, to a smaller extent, Pandora) I was able to look into some of those groups and records a little bit, but my selection was always limited or out of my control (but for the record, Finetune.com made it possible for me to fall in love with The Smiths; thank you, Finetune . . . thank you). Here are some thoughts on a few albums and bands that Lala gave me the chance to finally check out, after years of looking or dodging.
1. Analphabetapolothology–by Cap’n Jazz. My history with this band is similar to my history with The Promise Ring. How fitting that Davey Von Bohlen was in both bands. The first song I ever heard by them was “Basil’s Kite,” which was on a mix tape a friend sent me when I was a senior in high school. I didn’t care for it too much. Years passed, however, and my tastes changed and I ended up loving The Promise Ring, so I wondered if I could like Cap’n Jazz. I’d find a song here or there and realized I did, but never had the guts to just outright buy the album. Well now I’ve listened to nearly the whole thing (it’s 34 songs long, and I made it through 25 or 26–I’d say I did pretty good), and this is on my “buy soon” list. Every song is rife with “bad” vocals, weird instrumentation, and tons and tons of fun. I find that when decent-to-good musicians get together and have a good time, they’re infinitely better than hardly any other arrangement. That’s what Cap’n Jazz was. Also they were very young. I think the drummer was 13 when this band formed, and most, if not all, of them were still under 21 when the majority of this anthology was recorded.
2. Mutiny Pop–by The Copyrights. These guys are from my college town, and I only have their first album, We Didn’t Come Here to Die (and I have the ORIGINAL cover!). They’re stripped-down pop punk that immediately reminds people of The Ramones, but if you know your punk a little better you’ll think more along the lines of Screeching Weasel. Simple riffs and basic chord progressions that build in catchy verses and anthemic choruses. One of the things I truly appreciate about these guys is their commitment to not deviate too much from that style. Quote from lead singer/bassist Adam Fletcher: ” . . . we know what our boundaries are, we’re not gonna try to write something that’s like me singing with a piano or something. We’re not gonna […] try to progress to a point where we leave people behind. . . .” All of that said, when one knows they like a certain kind of rock, such as (true) pop-punk, then you know you like The Copyrights, and you’ll know you like this album before you even listen to it.
3. Homework–by Daft Punk. Sometime back in the late 1990’s I was looking for CD’s at Best Buy, and the album cover for Daft Punk’s Homework caught my eye. More specifically, it was the word “punk” that did it. I was looking for punk rock, and here’s a band with that in their name. On one hand–it might be just that. On the other hand–good punk bands would never advertise their punk affiliation in their band name like that. That would be like a heavy metal band having the word “metal” in their name somewhere; what a stupid idea. So I avoided it, but kept seeing it and was always a little curious . . . then one day I saw the video for “Around the World” and knew immediately that my move was a good move. As is the story with so much other music, a lot of time passed and I began to wonder if my changing tastes had changed enough for me to like these guys. Well, I got the chance on Lala to find out. And . . . Homework is an okay album. It suffers from what, in my opinion, makes a lot of house and beat music weak: too much repetition and not enough variety in sounds. However, I want to mention that if you listen to Daft Punk’s 2001 album, Discovery, after listening to this one, you’ll be blown out of your socks. These guys have serious talent; this album is just a little too early-days for me.
4. Never Ender–by Hot Water Music. I can’t figure out why these guys were called emo. They’re more of a hard-edged post-punk. This is a good album, but I’m not convinced I would have been happy with had I bought it sound-unheard back when I was curious about them (2002-04ish). I do get a sense that if I spent more time listening to them, I could probably end up liking them a lot . . . but honestly that would have to be entirely circumstantial.
5. Chaos A.D.–by Sepultura. Let me tell you a little story. One day while I was in high school, probably early my junior year, my friend John Crubaugh approached me with a mix tape he had made at some point in the year or two prior, but had absolutely no recollection of doing so. He was able to identify a couple of the songs, but there was one in particular he could not figure out. It was this really, really, REALLY fast and hard punk song, and it was awesome. We could not figure out the lyrics for the life of us, either. Well, another year went by and a different friend of mine on a church youth group trip wanted to put in the soundtrack for the Tales From the Crypt movie, Demon Knight. Imagine my surprise when I heard that same song playing on that CD. I checked the track and was further surprised to see that it was not a hardcore punk band that played the song, but Brazilian thrash metal legends Sepultura. The song was called “Policia,” its lyrics were entirely in Portuguese (hence us not understanding the words), and it’s still amazing. (Turns out it’s also a cover. Go figure.) I mentioned all this to yet another friend while at school, and expressed my curiosity to see if their other stuff was similar. He gave me Sepultura’s 1986 debut album Morbid Visions. It sucked. Also, the cover art wasn’t something I particularly cared for. But I was still interested in their (then) recent stuff, and was always tempted to pick up Chaos A.D. Now I’ve heard it via Lala . . . and I’m glad I didn’t get it. They’re good, but the majority of their stuff relies on a deep sound and hard rhythms and sounding . . . evil . . . as opposed to focusing on speed. You know–heavy metal. But speed is what I wanted. I think for me to really enjoy a really heavy band like this, the speed has to be there. There’s some songs here that have that “Policia” feel, particularly “Biotech is Godzilla” and “Manifest,” but that brings us to another issue–“Biotech is Godzilla?” What? A few others use a little more instrumentation and a more melodic sound (e.g. “The Hunt,” “Kaiowas”), and those were some good oasises for me. This album has some stuff that gets me a little bit . . . but for the most part just bores me. Then there’s the whole issue of the subject matter of many of the songs that just leave me feeling slimy . . . . This is certainly not a Braden album.