Audio Pile

Editor's Note: The covid-19 ordeal definitely slowed down the pace of writing here at Somebody's Webpage. It's been two and a half years since my previous installment of this column which was intended to be a semi-regular feature. Hopefully we will get back into the swing of things and start posting new content on a regular basis. - Somebody

Audio Pile 2 - July 2022

Star rating guide:

five stars - Excellent, a classic, a vital addition to your musical world
four stars - Good, above average
three stars - Just OK (or bad in an entertaining way)
two stars - Dull, clichéd, or uninspiring
one star - Unlistenable, possibly conceived as an act of malice against listeners

Fables of the Reconstruction by R.E.M.

R.E.M. - Fables of The Reconstruction (1985) five stars

A fantastic forgotten gem of an album. The perfect combination of surreal jangle pop and post-punk rock rhythms, with Michael Stipe's always-enigmatic song lyrics.

Grand Hotel by Procol Harum

Procol Harum - Grand Hotel (1973) five stars

A dramatic prog-psychedelic masterpiece which evokes a historical world full of organ and orchestral passages. The mood alternates between ghostly, semi-apocalyptic, and playful. Truly an unclassifiable work of genius.

Bill by Trash Sun

Trash Sun - Bill (2021) five stars

This shoegaze dreamscape combines guitar experimentation with reverb-saturated vocals that try to find a reason to get up in the morning, and then go exploring in a giant abandoned shopping mall. Which may sound like a convoluted analogy, but the end result is the perfect sonic opioid for our dystopian times. (Available on Bandcamp and Spotify.)

11 Tracks of Whack by Walter Becker

Walter Becker - 11 Tracks of Whack (1994) five stars

Three songs into this first solo album by the other half of Steely Dan and I found myself thinking, "I'm not worthy to be listening to this." To which I imagined the late Becker replying, "No, son, you are just worthy enough." In some ways this is the polar opposite of bandmate Fagan's solo albums (although he's the producer), and really recaptures the gritty eclecticism of 1970s Dan albums like Countdown to Ecstasy.

The Scream by Siouxsie and the Banshees

Siouxsie and the Banshees - The Scream (1978) five stars

This adjective-defying debut is still stunning to hear decades after its recording, full of goth-punk attitude, innovative musical twists, and great lyrical concepts to make you think while you dance. Possibly the best album of all time.

Funhouse by The Stooges

The Stooges - Funhouse (1970) four stars

This is one intense and crazy (and probably scandalous at the time of its release) record, propelled by Iggy Pop's vocal acrobatics. Within it you can hear several future genres of music waiting to be born. To quote one YouTube commenter: "Love the way it progressively descends into complete madness."

Union by Yes

Yes - Union (1991) four stars

The credits on this aptly-titled album read like an who's who of Yes band history (minus one or two people), plus a massive entourage of additional musicians, producers, and engineers. (In the credits I counted 10 extra synth players in addition to band veterans Rick Wakeman and Tony Kaye.) The result is like a musical version of your 20-year high school reunion, with lots of merriment and drifting from one musical conversation to the next, with Jon Anderson and Trevor Rabin as the cordial hosts.

Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino by Arctic Monkeys

Arctic Monkeys - Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino (2018) four stars

A newer band that we old guys here at Somebody's Webpage have decided are pretty darn good. This album could be described as a beat poetry performance with an experimental music backdrop, drawing plenty of influence from The Beatles and David Bowie, with a dash of Elvis Costello cynicism.

Europe's self-titled debut album

Europe (debut 1983) three stars

Structurally solid Swedish hair-metal from the 80s, I'm putting this debut album in the "I can't believe I'm listening to this" category. It contains lots of minor-key classical influences, as were common with European metal bands in that era. It doesn't appeal to me much, but overall the thing is nicely executed, and the second half of the album has a little more pop influence and a couple of crazy-good guitar solos.

Hemispheres by Rush

Rush - Hemispheres (1978) three stars

As with many of their albums, this comes across as math-rock for the type of serious person who would have been studying to go into medical school or become a software engineer in the late 70s. The musical execution is precise and the tone is level-headed with minimal emotional distractions. "Circumstances" actually rocks but is followed with "The Trees," possibly the silliest Rush parody ever written.

Reviewed by Somebody

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