The Alarm "The Alarm 2000 Collection" -Twenty First Century Recording Company-
If you remember the Alarm at all you probably remember either 1) Their "finger stuck in an electrical socket" new wave hair cuts and/or 2) Their being panned as a weak copy of U-2. The Alarm 2000 collection proves that (at least) the Alarm/U-2 comparison is as unwarranted as it is unfair. This collection, a 8 CD boxed set of 150 songs recorded from 1981-1991, includes the entire Alarm recorded output as well as b-sides, demos, live, and unreleased songs.
Musically the Alarm initially combined punk intensity with catchy songs played on acoustic guitars (amplified with electric pick-ups) turned up to 11. However, the Alarm played with more down to earth honesty and sincerity than U-2 ever dreamed of having. One Alarm lyric sums up their musical approach:
"I ain't gonna preach/I ain't gonna teach/I'm just gonna sing about the things that I need/ A little bit of love/a little bit of hope/a little bit of strength".
This collection also displays the musical diversity the Alarm were capable of: Everything from Dance rock ("The Chant has Just Begun", "Rain in the summertime), to ballads ("Walk Forever by My Side", "One Step Closer to Home") to radio friendly album rock ("Raw", "Sold me Down the River"). The Alarm did it all and did it quite well. The only downside to the Alarm 2000 collection is that its $170.00 price tag might make it cost prohibitive to Alarm neophytes.
If you need further prompting to buy this excellent collection, go see Alarm front man Mike Peters on his "Alarm 2000"tour. For further information on the Alarm 2000 collection go to www.thealarm.com.
Bad Religion "The New America"-Atlantic Records -
As any Bad Religion fan knows, despite varying lyrics/diatribes, there is actually only three Bad Religion songs: "the slow Bad Religion song", "the fast Bad Religion song" and "the REALLY fast Bad Religion song". On "The New America", Bad Religion mostly plays the differing versions of "the slow Bad Religion song". As is the case with any Bad Religion release, the lyrics range from verbose to platitudinous (vocalist Greg Grafflin must spend many a night with a thesaurus).
Surprisingly enough, producer Todd Rundgren did little to change the overall sound of Bad Religion. Bad Religion do what they do extremely well: writing/playing catchy, hard edged punk anthems which will convince high school kids that recording artists can change the world (or at least Bad Relgion's bank balance). Those more world wise (weary?) listeners will find themselves humming along to the songs on "The New America" almost in spite of themselves. "The New America" is not likely to win new fans but will satisfy rank and file Bad Religion Cadres. Smashing the state was never this catchy or well executed!
Dan Bryk "Lovers Leap" -Scratchie Records-
This album really gets under your skin. The first listen you are saying, "hmmm, nice pop songs and the slow piano songs remind me of Ben Folds Five (a band I can't stand…the Pat Boone of alternative!)" By the third listen you are hooked! Lovers Leap is a subliminal pop masterpiece, with lyrical brilliance that hits you on several levels. But, no matter how dark the subject matter of Dan's lyrics (such as the disturbing "Fingers"), you don't come away feeling depressed. Plus, Mr. Bryk seems to have a sarcastic sense of humor just like mine (check out "Chunky Girls")! And if thirteen great songs aren't enough, there are nine bonus mp3 tracks as well as a video! I came across these tracks quite by accident, since the CD is not labeled, "enhanced". Finally, look for the bonus mp3 track, "Graveyard of Friends", it's a hidden gem!
Oasis "Familiar to Millions"-Sony -
Usually when a group releases a double live album, it is a sign that its inspirational pool is drying up. After last years disapointing "Standing on the Shoulder of Giants", its looks like this is the case for Oasis. And for Oasis to actually include four songs from that album is purely delusional. They weigh down what could have been a great single live album. Of course all the "hits" are represented (Wonderwall, Champagne Supernova, Rock & Roll Star and Live Forever). The inclusion of "Helter Skelter" is no surprise-its been available on bootlegs for years. The one surprise is the bands cover of Neil Youngs, "Hey Hey My My" . But, cool covers has always been the trump card for Oasis live. But, I think they should have changed the lyrics to, "its better to break up, than to put out lame live albums…"
The French Broads "My Friend Speed"-Disgraceland Records -
Excellent power-pop in the vein of Television and the Byrds! My only complaint of this CD is that after several listens, none of the songs stand out in my memory. I'm not saying its bad…just not memorable. The playing and harmonies are top notch, but several of the songs just sound like out-takes from a Byrds and/or Television album (which definitely isn't a bad thing as far as influences go!).
However, when it doesn't wear its influences on its sleeves, the band shines. "Sunzabitches" is the standout track on this CD - catchy as hell! "Forgotten" is great country-pop. The brooding, spooky elegance of "New Year's Day" and "Welcome" are two more examples of what the band can do when they avoid overt influences.
To visit Disgraceland Records www.disgraceland.com click here
Lynyrd Skynyrd "Christmas Time Again"-CDM International -
This CD gets the lowest rating on our scale because it is asily the worst CD I've ever heard in my life! Thank god I didn't pay money for this piece of horse hockey! I downloaded it from Napster, which I suggest you do just to get a laugh! "Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin"" is significant in two ways. It shows the pathetic parody that the group has become and the audience the group is now targeting (white trash). Speaking of white trash, this album would convert Jimmy Swaggart to Islam!