Van Halen – Van Halen (1978)

The late 1970s seemed a bad time for rock and roll. Indeed, most of the good progressive rock had been done, disco was everywhere and punk was a nasty underground movement of the time. But, along came a California based band called Van Halen to save the day.

The band was a bunch of virtuosos. The four of them each had an ability to rock and showed a great ability to do so. David Lee Roth could howl, Eddie Van Halen could rock out, Michael Anthony could really excel as a backing vocalist and bassist and Alex Van Halen could do loud and powerful drumming like nothing before.

So, what does the album sound like? Let’s have a closer look.

The intro to Runnin’ With The Devil and the entire album is a mesh of the band member’s car horns, slowed down of course. It then kicks off. It’s a loud, in your face, rocker and does so well here. It’s a great song too.

The instrumental called Eruption is a hugely popular Eddie Van Halen piece, all recorded in one take. Producer Ted Templeman overhead Eddie Van Halen play it and suggested that he record it. The result is a wonderful, futuristic sounding shred fest which is short and sweet. A great job from Eddie.

You Really Got Me is indeed, a cover of The Kinks song. But it’s such a great cover that it sounds like an original from the band. With a twist in the guitar solo and David Lee Roth sounding very sexual, it’s a great cover.

Ain’t Talkin ‘Bout Love is a great song. It has a variety of sounds on it and goes very quiet in the middle. It’s likely that David Lee Roth was talking about the importance of non-romantic sexual experiences here, and does pretty well in serving up a solution. A great song by Van Halen.

The next piece is the quick and upbeat I’m The One. It’s a very party-like song but is not dull at all. It breaks down into an interesting midsection where David Lee Roth goes into female soul singer mode. Brilliant.

After that we have Jamie’s Cryin’ which is a fairly weak track, but not out of place on the album. It’s about a girl who is in love with the wrong sort of guy. It’s still listenable, mind you.

Atomic Punk sounds, wow, kind of different. The palm-muted intro by Eddie Van Halen sounds awesome here. It’s a good song too, about a postmodern mythical Atomic Punk. It’s likely these guys were influenced by some Progressive Rock ideals here. Still, it’s great to listen to.

Feel Your Love Tonight is a good piece with a chugging riff to boot. It is representative of these guys in a good way, and even though it does seem a little weaker, it’s still sonically awesome to hear on this album.

The next piece Little Dreamer talks about someone who was bullied at high school, only to surprise everyone by surviving. It’s a strange sort of sentiment, but hey, it sounds very good indeed.

After that, we arrive at Ice Cream Man. This is acoustic blues, and totally underrated too. It’s very brilliantly done, particularly by David Lee Roth, and sounds refreshing. These guys obviously had studied their musical history as well.

On Fire is a great song to finish the album by. It has some awesome yelping by David Lee Roth and some nice guitar licks by Eddie Van Halen. It fades out nicely as the album comes to a close.

This album made Van Halen. It has sold 10 million copies and secured guitarist Eddie Van Halen into the rock history books. But also, the songs are fantastic here. It is absolutely worth listening to this gem of an album, it’s almost perfect in its own way. Van Halen has made many recordings during their lifetime as a band. This, by far, is their best though.

9/10

Nirvana – Nirvana (2002)

To be fair, if you only want one Nirvana album to keep, this it it.

Nearly 10 years after Kurt Cobain’s suicide, comes this release. It’s a great compilation that does justice to the legacy of Nirvana. For example, the opener You Know You’re Right is a rarity, recorded shortly before Kurt Cobain’s passing. It sounds like it too, being deep and emotional in general.

The other cuts are just as good. This album tends to focus on rarities unheard of before. It’s a great little compilation masterpiece, varying from the early Bleach era, through to Nevermind and In Utero, and the MTV Unplugged album. It’s a great way to show off how wonderful Nirvana worked together as a unit.

Nirvana were a professional and talented team of musicians and despite the negativity that features in their music, it’s a great listening experience to have. If you are new to Nirvana, check this compilation out. Nirvana kick started the 1990’s, and were hugely influential. The proof is in the songs, and they have many great songs here.

9/10

Blink-182 – Blink-182 (2003)

/All the successes of Blink-182 had come to fruition. Despite this, the band went very serious on this recording in comparison to previous efforts. Prior to this, the music of Blink-182 was not very serious at all. This one is. It is the last album to feature guitarist and singing Tom Delonge. It is also their best effort musically.

We begin with pounding drums and lead into Feeling This. It’s a good song about desire, perhaps with an air of melancholy about it. It’s a good song to begin with, and sounds like definitive Blink-182. A great way to start the album.

The grunge like guitars and message of Obvious arrive next. It’s about being cheated on, not at all a comfortable subject to hear. And just when you thought the song was over, bam! It starts again. A good and obvious surprise. Nice.

I Miss You is Blink-182’s most popular song ever. It is a sad ballad about missing someone you love. It is nothing at all like earlier Blink-182 efforts. “Don’t waste your time on me, you’re already the voice inside my head. I miss you.” It’s a very sad song. But so good that it’s worth listening to when the mood demands it.

Violence starts off with some great percussion based sounds, before leading into a fast paced track which is disturbing lyrically. It’s not specifically about violence, but being killed emotionally by a partner. Makes sense if you ever feel this way. It’s just so well done, despite the fact it is a depressing listen. A good job regardless.

The quick and bitter Stockholm Syndrome Interlude comes next. It’s a painful observation with a female voice-over observing a terrible relationship based situation at hand. By now, this could be considered a postmodern breakup concept album of sorts.

It segues into Stockholm Syndrome which is a bitter reflection of the past. It’s effective on many musical and emotional levels. In other words, it is a really good medley of sorts with the previous song.

Down is the next piece. It’s less intense than the previous songs to listen to, but just as good. It’s still about failed relationships though. Who knew what was running through the band’s mind at this point? It’s a good song anyway.

The Fallen Interlude is a mostly instrumental piece that has some minor key melodies in it. It’s a good change from continuous songs. Some great drum work is here as well.

The short and rather disturbing Go arrives next. It is about parents who fight with one another, perhaps verbally or physically and the flow on effects of this. Uncomfortable listening, but fortunately a short listen.

After that, we segue into the rather ordinary Asthenia. It’s not as good as the other songs on this album, but it is still okay to listen to. It could have been bettered though. It seems to refer a lot of classic songs though, which is interesting.

Always is truly a great song. It is just perfectly done for the mood at hand. It’s about still loving someone, even after being rejected in a relationship. It’s something you’d play to someone if you feel that your relationship is on the rocks. Awesome listening.

Easy Target is a short and hateful sounding song. It’s not clear what the subject matter is about, but it fortunately is short for such a track. It has a reoccurring riff throughout that segues into the next song.

The following piece, All Of This, features Robert Smith of The Cure on vocals. It’s a slow paced song with Nine Inch Nails style drums, but it makes a big impact on the listener. Ironic choice for a guest vocalist on a Blink-182 song though. Decent enough anyway.

The short Here’s Your Letter is about being distressed thinking about a girl in one’s life. It explains a series of events, which is quite unusual in modern music. It’s a good listen to hear on the album though.

I’m Lost Without You is the last main song on the album. It’s a very sad piece about the loss of love. The instrumentation and arrangements support the lyrics perfectly. The lyrics sound very deep too, a perfect match for the song. It’s a great epic work. The drumming outro is superb.

Anthem Part Two – Live in Chicago is added to the album’s end. It starts off with a great joke, before heading into a decent live version of said song, which is on the previous Blink-182 album Take Off Your Pants And Jacket. It’s a nice version of the song.

This album is an emotional ride. It’s a postmodern breakup album. Perhaps this was what Tom Delonge had going through his mind at this point, and left Blink-182 after this effort to spend time with his family. Still, the music here is fantastic when the mood desires it. Sadly, Blink-182 were never the same again after Delonge’s departure.

9/10

Public Image Ltd. – The Flowers Of Romance (1981)

Public Image lost Jah Wobble, their bassist after the release of Second Edition. He went off for an ordinary life driving trains for a while. Stumped, John Lydon thought of a way to go on. So,  in response, this album has no bass guitar on it.

Having said that, this album is still really very good. It is still up to a great standard of John Lydon, and is a great listen.

We begin with Four Enclosed Walls, with its unusual intro and John Lydon chanting and wailing away. It then leads into a very catchy drum part and subtle instrumentation. It’s a great way to kick off this album, and sounds very artistic.

The follow up, Track 8 is a strangely named piece. It seems a lot more mellow and laidback, even sounding Syd Barrett-ish somehow. It seems like a weaker track though, and this album seems like a step back in cohesiveness overall.

Phenagen has a very strange musical arrangement, with music that would not be anywhere far from voodoo witch doctor music. John Lydon sings very well here, and shows that even so-called punk rockers can carry a song and melody, no matter what you think of their ability to do so.

Flowers Of Romance is next up, with its elastic drum beat and a multitude of experimental sounds to boot. It has John Lydon questioning the decisions that one makes, peaking in the chorus and has some psychedelic edge to it. A brilliant song, and surely a mockery of romance itself? Who knows.

The next piece up, Under The House, has a super long intro. It’s a bit weaker, but still satisfying enough to listen to. It seems like a freaky sort of song, because it probably is. This album is certainly Leftfield for sure, if you know what I mean.

After that, we hear an unusual drum led piece called Hymie’s Him. It is an instrumental, but a poor instrumental at that. It lacks structure and is all over the place. Still, it fits on the album nicely though.

Banging The Door has John Lydon telling people nicely, to place their problems elsewhere. It is a great statement, and continues Problems by The Sex Pistols thematically. It’s a good tune though.

Go Back is the real track 8. This is difficult to make of the purpose of the song, with John Lydon singing lyrics about impressionist style values. It is a random piece for sure.

The last one on the album, Francis Massacre, is really quite good. Without a load of different instrumentation, sounds and chanting, it’s a good way to end this album. John Lydon has really improved as a singer at this point, and sings this album very well.

There are many remastered reissues of this album with a few extra cuts which were recorded around this time. Is this the best PiL album? It quite possibly is. It is a pure statement of artistry by the group and John Lydon. It blows away the bad synth pop which was arising at the time. It is a very underrated album, and deserves listening.

9/10

Blink-182 – Enema Of The State (1999)

This album broke Blink-182 into the mainstream. Prior to this, they had set themselves up as a novelty sort of group for skater punks and young college tools. After the release of this album, they widened and broadened their audience to a mainstream perspective.

The songs are definitely here, along with the production and mixing. It sounds much better than what their previous releases did. Plus, Blink-182 had an image to boot as well. This is their highest selling album to date. It’s excellent, so let’s dive in and check it out.

We begin with Dumpweed. It’s a short tale about college romance, and desperately attempting to hold it all together. It’s short, sharp and just perfect to start off the album with.

The feeling of betrayal by a girl enters the scene. Don’t Leave Me is all about that. It’s a very good listen and continues the strength of the album. These songs are shorter than you’d expect, but just top notch all the same.

Aliens Exist is a story about contact with alien life. It’s a typical Tom Delonge penned idea and something he is semi-obsessed with, even to this day. Sadly, Tom Delonge is no longer an active Blink-182 member, but he captures the surreal well here.

Going Away To College is a tale of trust in dealing with the said title of the song. It’s very American Pie-ish this album and is reflected in the choice of song subjects and selected works here. Still, it is very good.

The follow up What’s My Age Again? speaks of young adult immaturity, and never being able to hold down a relationship due to this particular reason. It’s quite melodic and catchy. Never a dull moment on this album.

The next song Dysentery Gary is about a guy who loses his mind over heartache with girls. It’s a very short and interesting twist for Blink-182.

Adam’s Song talks directly about suicide. It’s a great song though, and directly quotes Nirvana into Blink-182 territory: “I took my time, I hurried up. The choice was mine, I didn’t think enough.” It’s a strong statement and is consistent enough to remain sitting well in the middle of the album, segueing into the next song.

All The Small Things was the last song recorded for this album, but you can hear why. It’s the best song on that album and is a party song for sure. It’s so catchy and has a wonderful melody to boot. Enjoy this hit single of theirs.

The follow up is The Party Song which is hilarious. The best lyric in it is, “Some girls try too hard,” which is true but listen to the song lyrics for further understanding on this one. It’s hilarious and awesome, which is what Blink-182 did best.

The song afterward, Mutt is much more punky and humourous than you’d think. It tells the story of an interesting couple who just are in it for the sex. It’s comical, and worth your attention.

Wendy Clear is a nonsense story and perhaps is a little weak because of it. But it sits as a bridging piece towards the end of the album.

Anthem finishes the album with a hilarious story of a house party being thrown. These guys obviously had a decent sense of humour and it flows in this tale of underage fun. The album ends nicely here.

After the release of All The Small Things as a single, Blink-182 went mega. They stayed this way until 2005, when Tom Delonge left the band for personal reasons. Things were not the same again after that for Blink-182. Still, this recording is exactly what you need if you want some 90’s punk with attitude. The loud guitars here point to that, it’s a keeper this album.

9/10

Nirvana – In Utero (1993)

Kurt Cobain was not in a good state of mind by 1993. He had struggled to cope with fame and heroin addiction as well. Plus, marrying Courtney Love wasn’t exactly a great move. He still had some great music in him though and unleashed this album in that year.

The album is a step closer to what Kurt Cobain wished to do musically. It’s a rawer and more unapologetic stance in comparison to Nevermind, with help from producer Steve Albini. Indeed, Kurt Cobain disliked Butch Vig’s production on Nevermind intensely and although this album was mixed for a more pop sort of audience, there is no doubt that the music here is a more uncompromising version of Nirvana than Nevermind ever was, especially lyrically. Perhaps the name and artwork of the album referred to his daughter being conceived, quite odd really.

We start off with Serve The Servants and we have Kurt sounding more distressed than ever. The band puts in a great performance here though, and there are plenty of distorted guitars here to boot.

The next song Scentless Apprentice is a heavy and distorted pop Grunge song to boot. It goes from slow to furious in a nanosecond. Dave Grohl really does well here on drums and keeps the groove going well.

Heart-Shaped Box is an indirect stab at Kurt’s wife Courtney Love and has some pretty freaky lyrics. Kurt’s guitar work sounds really good here and is the standout of this song. “Forever in debt to your priceless advice.” Sounds like a man who was not enjoying his life.

Rape Me is notoriously explicit. But it’s a catchy piece at that. Kurt insists he is not the only one who desires this feeling and is rather an odd concept to get your head around. It sounds a lot like Smells Like Teen Spirit in the intro, at least.

The next track Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle is a slower and more melodic song, but still sounds messed up Kurt Cobain style. It sounds not out of place on the album, however.

The following track Dumb is a mainly acoustic and cello piece where Kurt sings about comparing happiness to stupidity. It’s a strange notion, but one that has meaning behind it. A good and more mellow song nonetheless.

Very Ape is a rather throwaway song. Good thing it only lasts a couple of minutes. Interestingly, this song has the riff at the start that was used in The Prodigy’s Voodoo People track. It’s a rather odd Nirvana piece regardless.

Milk It goes from PiL style guitar parts in the quieter section, to a loud noisy roar in the main sections of it. Kurt wasn’t happy with himself at this point, “Look on the bright side is suicide.” and despite the negativity, it is good Grunge pop.

We come across another hit single. Pennyroyal Tea starts off with a mellow acoustic part before Kurt Cobain launches into music that tells the world about some of his various problems. Kurt wanted to lay everything bare here.

It goes deeper on the next piece Radio Friendly Unit Shifter and Kurt Cobain questions the reasons for his problems in life. He repeatedly asks, “What is wrong with me? What do I think? I think.” From a lyrical point of view, we know that Kurt Cobain was losing it mentally, amongst the great music here.

Tourette’s comes next and is a much more pacey punk song about nothing in particular. It has a great chord progression in it, however. It just kicks ass and changes the mood a little bit before the last track.

All Apologies finishes Kurt’s career, for the most part, with a musical suicide note. He questions everything that he stands for and leaves us sadly with this song. It’s a good epitaph for his musical life.

This album sold well, but not as much as Nevermind did. Sadly Kurt was in a state of mental decline at this point. His death by suicide left behind a musical legacy that should have been continued. Still, this album is a great if not dark listen to all rock fans out there. Much like Kurt’s idol Ian Curtis of Joy Division, suicide was seen as acceptable, sadly. It’s best to focus on the music instead, and this album is just awesome.

Nirvana fans should check out the re-releases and extra tracks put onto those remastered re-releases. It’s a great Grunge album for sure regardless.

8/10

The Prodigy – The Fat Of The Land (1997)

The Prodigy was a big name in the 1990s in the world of music. After the release of their first two albums, Experience and Music For The Jilted Generation, they were in the process of fine honing their own musical craft and were becoming more and more popular along the way.

This album represented the peak of the fame of The Prodigy. They had moved on from the sell-out UK Hardcore nature of Experience and the pseudo-political rants of Music For The Jilted Generation. This album went mega, selling millions of copies worldwide, and gave the group attention internationally.

We begin with the notoriously politically incorrect piece Smack My Bitch Up. It’s actually the product of a multitude of samples and just sounds still amazing over 20 years later. The explicit nature of this song, in particular, ensured that the group was seen as a neo-punk movement, but the intention musically is somewhat different.

The follow-up Breathe is a great piece featuring their vocalist Keith Flint. “Breathe the pressure, come play my game, I’ll test ya! Psychosomatic, addict, insane!” It’s a rather nonsensical rant but this song oozes cool.

Diesel Power is a rap piece. In fact, it’s wonderfully fresh and features one of the many guests on this album rapper Kool Keith. It’s a perfect combination of the Big Beat sound and rap music that fans were dying to hear. It’s good fun.

Funky Shit sounds like a warped acid house music sounding attack. It’s so catchy you will have it stuck in your head for days. It’s a sonic montage, yet just done so effectively.

The next track is weaker. Serial Thrilla doesn’t really do much that is great to listen to, but still, it’s passable. It could have been rethought, but it’s okay on this record.

The next track was notably played in the film The Matrix. Mindfields is a trip for the 1990s and has some wicked guitar feedback style samples in it. It shows the genius of Liam Howlett and his ability to craft sonic pieces that were fantastic.

Narayan is a good song, and you may think it is Richard Ashcroft singing? But no, it’s Crispian Mills instead. Still, he puts in a mega performance here, despite the fact he sounds a lot like Ashcroft. This song goes through several transitions and many interesting electronic experiences before it explodes into the next piece on the album.

Firestarter is a very overrated tune. It’s about being punk, but aside from that, falls flat musically. Some of the sounds here are really dated indeed, and this whole song needs a rethink, at least in its original form.

The next piece, the instrumental Climbatize is really very good. It’s a mega trip which takes you to a musical place that one cannot find on planet Earth otherwise. Music sometimes has that effect on people.

The last song is the worst on the album and easily should have been junked. Fuel My Fire does not fuel a fire for listening to that song, and fortunately only goes on for a short time. The album ends swiftly after that piece.

The Prodigy broke into the mainstream with this album. Afterwards, it took the group nearly a decade to make another record, which was nowhere near as good as their 90s work. But if you like the sound of mega beats, interesting textures and punk like attitude, look no further. A good album to listen to now and again, and the first track is bound to disturb some listeners too, adding shock value to the recording. Indeed, there are Nazi quotes in the album booklet as well, for your pleasure.

7/10