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Five Albums of the Week (4)

Once again, I’ve stolen the concept from Remy, but I’ve tailored it to my obsessive-compulsive tendencies by expanding it to full albums instead of just songs.

Symphony of Enchanted Lands by Rhapsody (1999, LMP Records)

I watch WGN News in the morning before I go to work and/or school. On Friday, they had this unbelievably bad parody of German glam metal. It could have been funny, but the problem was that they were comedians who thought, “Look at how hilarious these German metal guys are. Let’s make fun of them.” Consequently, it stops being funny and turns sad.

The reason why, for example, This is Spinal Tap works so well is that the band, made up of comedians, find the humor in the pretention of these acts. Certain heavy metal bands take themselves so seriously, while being so completely ridiculous, that they end up becoming self-parody in their own right. And that’s what Rhapsody is.

I was told to download this album from somebody awhile back, and I just got around to listening to it a few weeks ago. It’s this weird mix of speed-metal, bad medieval minstrel music, and Dungeons and Dragons. I am not joking about this. The album is unbelievably funny, especially the brief spoken-word segments spoken by somebody with both a cold and a lisp, but it’s really a shame. The musicianship is surprisingly, almost disturbingly, good. It’s just the musical content, the lyrical content, and the whole overall concept that is laughably bad.

I played a couple tracks of Sissy Bar (specifically, their cover of “Gin and Juice” that makes the song good, and their ode to Jackie Collins) for my parents, and they were unimpressed. Then, I played this, and they were like, “Holy shit, this is the best album you’ve brought home in months.” I guess they don’t like the Cooler Kids that much. Also, they’re old fogies; of course they love stuff like that. It’s their world.

Liz Phair by Liz Phair (2003, Capitol Records)

When I started listening to terrible indie rock, The Ex (not at the time) told me that I wasn’t really a man if I hadn’t heard Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville. Then again, she calls My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless the most influential album of all time, so maybe she’s just crazy*.

At any rate, I was not particularly impressed with the album. I liked some of it, but I didn’t get excited about it like I did, for some reason, with Juvenalia, the EP everybody else on the planet hated. So I don’t really follow around Liz Phair like I do with certain other female vocalists out there.

I started reading reviews of her new album, though, that piqued my interest. She teamed up with the frightening people who turned Michelle Branch’s demos into a weird hybrid of fem-pop and indie-rock and sold out thoroughly and completely. I got it in my head that I would love this new Liz Phair album because I like Michelle Branch quite a bit, but her lyrics are unbelievably stupid and painfully juvenile. So, since Liz Phair is about 17 years older and generally writes better songs anyway, I thought this would be a good pick.

And I was right, pretty much. I like Liz Phair, all glossed up and basically denying her indie roots, much more than I liked the unnecessary, squealy aggression of Exile in Guyville.

But maybe that’s just me.

The Execution of All Things by Rilo Kiley (2002, Saddle Creek Records)

This is probably my favorite album of all time. Even better than the Blake Babies’ Sunburn. Although, funnily enough, I think Rilo Kiley is a lot better live than they are in the studio. I’ve heard Blake Sennett take a bit of flak because he’s not much of a singer (especially compared to Jenny Lewis), but I thought the recording doesn’t do him justice. He sounded great live. Of course, I thought Jenny sounded better live, too, so who knows?

One Day Under the Sun, One Night Beneath the Moonlight by johnl (2003, independent)

My good pal johnl uploaded his album to the server, and I liked it quite a bit, so he sent me an actual physical copy of the CD. I was sort of dubious at first, thinking maybe he was wasting his time (and money; it seems like it’d be expensive to ship a CD from Ireland to Chicago) since I already had the uploaded copy, but I’m glad he did. For anybody who believes that MP3s will ever capture the breadth of a CD (or, even better, an LP), allow me to point to this as an example. I almost dare to call it “faboo,” but I’d like to maintain some hetero street cred.

Disc One by Barenaked Ladies (2001, Warner Brothers Records)

Oddly, I wrote much of this several weeks ago, but never got around to finish it up and posting it until now (although, because I’m too lazy to find something new, I’m still listening to the same CDs, except for this one). So, I was listening to this quite a bit with Lucy after she got her wisdom teeth out. It sort of blew my mind at first, because some of their more terrible work was mingling with some of their best songs, and I thought she just had some poorly concocted mix CD of tracks she’d gotten off of gnutella.

Turns out, it’s an actual greatest hits CD. And, yes, I suppose all of the songs on it are their greatest hits; it just happens that a lot of their greatest hits are actually pretty bad songs, when compared to the rest of the BNL catalog. At least, that’s the way I felt about it.

*Not saying it’s a bad album; I like it quite a bit and always listen to it when I’m depressed and feel like my life is going nowhere, so I have it on quite often. I just don’t see how it was particularly influential. I’ve heard a lot of people outright rip it off, but I haven’t heard much MBV influence in indie rock in general.

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