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Tuesday, Jan 21, 2014
Though not from the Mary Chain's most acclaimed album, 1989's "Head On" is one of the band's better offerings, a classic example of how the proper amount of attitude can elevate a song.

Yes, Psychocandy is far and away the Jesus and Mary Chain’s best album; there’s no disputing that. None of the records Jim and William Reid have put out in the nearly 30 years since that LP’s release have quite matched that record’s almost primitive appeal, a result of its jarring yet alluring juxtaposition of honey-sweet melodies and a nigh-unyielding cacophonous roar of white noise. It’s been argued that the band’s creative downfall has been its efforts to tidy itself out, actions which completely miss the point of what’s appealing about its best music.

On its surface, the 1989 single “Head On” shouldn’t be my favorite Mary Chain number. The lack of layers of feedback reveal the band is peddling a rather straightforward arrangement; the most noticeable bursts of guitar noise are in the form of a ‘50s-style riff William Reid trots out between verses. More unpalatable to my sensibilities is the song’s reliance on synth bass and a drum machine, utilized to make up for the Reids’ lack of a full group at that stage. The synthetic rhythmic section robs the Mary Chain of much-needed thrust, and though I’m partial to dated-sounding synth bass in choice contexts, the most unflattering task it can be made to do in my opinion is to pound out strict root-note eighth notes. Which is exactly what happens on this track.

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Tuesday, Jan 7, 2014
Kiss has authored numerous crowd-pleasing rockers, but don't overlook how good their late-'70s disco detour is.

Hard rock fans rejoiced last month when Kiss was announced as one of the latest inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. As the band has long been derided by critics as all style and no substance, this achievement was vindication for millions—not all of them card-carrying members of the Kiss Army—who could care less what Rolling Stone or anyone else thinks as long as the music’s loud and the riffs are catchy. If you crave big dumb rock fronted by outsized personalities and served with more pyrotechnics than a Super Bowl halftime show, for four decades the self-styled “hottest band in the world” has had no compunctions about accommodating your desires.

Tagged as: disco, kiss
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Tuesday, Dec 10, 2013
It's pitched somewhere between "Disco Duck" and "Dick in a Box" on the novelty song scale, but Ylvis bamboozled the nation with a parody song so moronic it became a Top 10 hit. That is an absolutely absurd accomplishment, and it almost makes me laugh as much as the song itself does.

Here’s a fun fact: I listed “The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?)” by Ylvis on my Top 10 Singles list for the year. Some of the staff were confused/bemused/potentially angry at that inclusion, perhaps aghast at the inaccuracies that the song has brought forth, notably that foxes, in fact, do not make such sounds, much less marry them to catchy dance beats. There’s no mistake that this is a novelty song of the highest order, but in the realm of parodic songwriting, does Ylvis’ track line up closer to “Disco Duck” or “Dick in a Box”? What legacy, if any, will it have? And, most importantly, why the hell did I put it on my Top 10 list for the year?

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Wednesday, Dec 4, 2013
As I consider the music of the past year, I find a newfound admiration and affection for an '80s throwback I had discounted months ago.

It took me a while, but a Bruno Mars song finally won me over. I had been exposed to the golden-voiced crooner’s output before—indeed, I had heard liberal portions of the very subject of this post enough times in the past to decide that while it was a decent enough song in spots, I wasn’t waiting with baited breath for its next replay. Fine as a singer as Mars is, his material always struck me as the work of yet another R&B smooth operator fixated with trying on the crown left behind by the dearly departed Michael Jackson, and any inclination to explore deeper was dissuaded by his penchant for garbled lyrical metaphors (don’t get me started on “Grenade”).

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Thursday, Sep 26, 2013
With the release of Arctic Monkeys’ fifth album, AM, we can now definitely confirm that they are a brand new band. What happened to those teenagers that represented youth and were once the voice of a generation? Have they changed that much since then?

It’s not news that Arctic Monkeys have gone through a great metamorphosis since their boom in the UK music scene back in 2005. When they released Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not—a title that reflected adolescence’s rebelliousness—they seemed to be young boys just like any of us. With their ordinary clothes and electrifying riffs, nobody would have expected that they would someday become real rock stars.

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