Part Fourteen: 90-81
More songs! I’m running out of things to say! Send help!
90. Neon Trees – “First Things First”
Another synthetic pop anthem from Neon Trees, one of my guilty pleasures among non-rocking’ acts. This one’s got a cool “be yourself and make your own way” message to it, of course on top of a very danceable beat. Let’s face it, there’s a mountain of cheese here, but for some reason I find it so much more tolerable (and in truth, enjoyable) when it’s delivered with such earnest sincerity. The video really helps back it up to, the old photos of band member’s from their pasts showing that these really are a bunch of people just looking to find their foothold on the world (the singer has a different look for each year of his life, it seems). A hard song to get out of my head once it gets in there.
89. Chevelle – “Take Out The Gunman”
I’m not the first person to hear Chevelle and make the crack that they sound like a poor man’s Tool, but it’s a really hard comparison to avoid. Their sound is so clearly inspired by the 90’s alt-metallers that they at times sound like a tribute band. Of course, with Tool themselves delivering new material so infrequently, it’s kind of nice to have a baby version to kick around new tunes every couple of years. This track has a very Tool-like high-stepping stomp to it, the downbeats coming with ferocious power in a way that is also reminiscent of Rage Against The Machine, while the guitar work is distorted but somewhat thin, giving it that feeling of starvation that once again Tool elicits. I wish I could have said something more profound about Chevelle themselves, but alas, once I get the comparisons in my heard, they’re damn hard to exorcise. On the plus side, this is a killer track from a damn fine album, regardless of where the sound originated.
88. The War On Drugs – “Red Eyes”
A second entry in the countdown for the Dylan-inspired The War On Drugs, this time adopting a more upbeat delivery than the slightly (pardon the pun) drug-addled trippiness of “Under The Pressure”. Not that this one is a scorcher by any means, but the rhythm section adopts a nice skipping pace that is shaded beautifully by the guitar work, which is almost all color and little punch, perfect for a song of this nature. The Dylan comparison also gets shed here, as while the vocal style is still somewhat similar, it’s not nearly as insistent. Somewhere in the back of it all I hear a tiny bit of Supertramp, for reasons that I’m not sure I could adequately explain. Eh, screw it. Just hop in the pocket and come along.
87. The Trews – “What’s Fair Is Fair”
One of the reasons this countdown is taking me forever to get through is because every now and then I hit a song and I find I have absolutely nothing of value or merit to say about it outside of the fact that I really, really like it. Particularly in a case like this where the band is a repeater (with yet a third to come later) and I’ve already covered my thoughts on their general sound in a previous post. I mean, there’s only so many times I can say, “these guys remind me of Tonic” before it just gets to be a useless comparison. So here is mid-paced guitar rock number for your listening pleasure, complete with a cool video that features indoor fireworks. If you need more enticement than that, you’re shit outta luck.
86. Bob Mould – “I Don’t Know You Anymore”
Bob Mould is man behind alternative rock godfathers Hüsker Dü, a band I have next-to-no history with, as they were constantly shoved in my face as being “amazing” by those who claim to know what “real music” sound like, despite my ears being unable to get beyond the din of white noise the band produced. He popped up in the early 90’s fronting a new band, Sugar, which retained some of his old band’s feel (so I’ve been told) but with decidedly more radio friendly songs. I of course became a fan. Since then he’s carried on a spotty solo career and spent a brief time as a writer for professional wrestling promotion WCW in their dying days (which always kind of weirded me out at the time). His 2014 solo venture, Beauty & Ruin, featured this very Sugar-sounding track, which is to me a prime example of what shiny power pop is all about. Great video too, featuring an obnoxious cameo from Decemberists lead vocalist Colin Meloy taking stabs at his own hipster doucheiness.
85. Starset – “Carnivore”
Starset is a side project of Downplay vocalist Dustin Bates, who files down some of the rough edges of his previous band with a digital file, adding a healthy dose of keyboards, effects, and sci-fi storytelling on his new group’s debut album Transmissions. They’re still very much in the rock spectrum, playing in the same playpen as Breaking Benjamin and Skillet, but with a conceptual feel (Bates has a degree in electrical engineering and once taught at the International Space University). That may not seem like much, but it really does infect the album and the band’s sound when you take it as a whole. As for this single, once again it’s the insistent chorus that brings me to the table, as Bates has one of those unspectacular voices that works precisely in the context of the material without ever showing much flash. One of two songs on the album which jumped out at me with repeated listens on an album that really needs to be absorbed as complete listen to take effect.
84. Twin Atlantic – “Brothers And Sisters”
Back at #95 I introduced you to the band Little Eye, who back in late 2012 opened my eyes to the fact that I apparently have a thing for singers with thick Scottish accents. This was confirmed one night when I was tooling around Rdio checking out “similar” bands and stumbled upon Twin Atlantic. I played my way through their entire catalogue over the next few days, completely drawn in by singer/guitarist Sam McTrusty’s voice (and accent). The fact that the band played a form of radio ready guitar rock along the lines of Tonic (there they are again) didn’t hurt. When their 2014 release Great Divide hit my ears it quickly became one of the few constant repeaters of my musical year. As it stands now it is duking it out for my favorite album of the year with a few other choice selections, thanks in part to songs like this. As you might guess, this is but the first of many songs to come from them.
83. Captain Black Beard – “Somebody”
So the band name is silly, the album cover is goofy, the video is cheesy, the band looks like some kind of horrific hipster/biker cross-breed, and the music is total 80’s guitar rock, somewhere between Night Ranger and .38 Special without all the southern overtones. Naturally the lads are Swedish (though points for sucking up with the American flag themed t-shirt), a fact which is only slightly noticeable from a vocals/lyrics standpoint. Otherwise it’s streamlined arena rock that won’t make you rethink your stance on world views, but if you let it, WILL make you wanna hit the highway with the top down and leave behind what ails you for a while. I mean, the 80’s were ALWAYS good for that, weren’t they?
82. Thundersuckle – “This One’s Not About You”
You know an act is obscure when you have to go to SoundCloud just to find a useable link to their music. I don’t know anything meaningful about this band and I haven’t bothered to remedy that because it really doesn’t feel necessary. Hell, this track is nothing more than a guy and an acoustic guitar, so background seems completely pointless. Instead I choose to focus on the stripped back and totally bitter delivery of a guy who has clearly got an axe to grind when it comes to the girl which the title swears it’s not about. Yeah, we’ve all been there, buddy. Let it out.
81. Seether – “Words As Weapons”
Seether’s been around for ages, landing big fat rock radio hits and becoming one of those bands like Creed and Nickelback that a lot of people (particularly critics) seem to loathe despite (or is that because of) selling millions of records. For whatever odd reason I’ve never really followed them closely even though they sailed the musical waters that I once bathed in as a listener. I hear their stuff, I like it, but I never seem to invest. The same can be said for their latest album, Isolate And Medicate, which came and went with a scant few listens from me last summer. Except, that is, for this lead single, which I kept returning to for listen after listen even though I can’t for the life of me come to grips with why. Near as I can tell it’s a solid representation of their other songs, if anything sounding a little thinner than normal, the guitars being pushed back in the mix, which is normally a turn-off for me. And yet here it sits at #81, working whatever twisted spell it has over me well enough to crack the top #100 with ease. Sometimes I don’t even understand myself.