1)David Bowie, Aladdin Sane: Obviously Bowie was at the height of his fame here but listening to this one wonders if he wasn't being stretched a little thin during his glory years (he had all that stuff going on with Iggy & The Stooges and Mott The Hoople etc. etc. during these years too, right?) I can't find very many reviews from anyone claiming this is one of his masterpieces, even though it feels like it should be. He didn't do a simplistic retread of Ziggy Stardust, I know that much, but he didn't really expand that much on its sound, either, and he just didn't come up with as many great songs. Most people seem to think this is just a good album and that's about how I feel--I only ever even remembered (or loved) "Lady Grinning Soul" (in part because I mistakenly thought the piano parts were played by Rick Wakeman; it's actually Mike Garson), which is why I did a relisten. "Watch That Man" and "Cracked Actor" are good glam, the title track has good dark piano and "The Prettiest Star" has a 1950s chord sequence and backing vox I find easy to like. That being said, I hate his overblown, ugly cover of "Let's Spend The Night Together" (made all the worse by the fact that I now like the original Stones song far more than I used to) and I have NEVER understood what is so great about "Jean Genie," it's just this dumb rolling flippant rootsy-shuffle melody and if you hadn't told me it was a big glam classic I wouldn't have the first clue that it was, or why. (Haven't LOTS of bands done that chord sequence, that melody?) "Drive-In Saturday," "Panic In Detroid" and "Time" are passable but nothing I'll be listening to outside the whole album. So while I did rediscover three or four cool songs here, my opinion hasn't really gotten any higher. Does anyone here think this is a great album and not merely an okay one?
2)Sparks, Indiscreet: Oh, yuck. First I redo Propaganda, which sounded like an annoying, unlikable, cutesy, second rate follow up to the alleged masterpiece Kimono My House (which I've never relistened to), now here's Indiscreet, which is the annoying, unlikeable, cutesy, second rate retread of Propaganda. Literally the only thing I ever liked here is "Happy Hunting Ground" where the cutesy kiddie stage show feel meshes with a couple of power-pop-ish chord sequences; the rest is just a magic-kingdom blur. I guess I can remember "Pineapple," but aside from that...just...just...screw it. I don't like this stuff and now I pretty know I never will. At this point I'm wondering if I ever need to hear anything the band recorded between 1971 and 1975 (remember, I like the disco period) besides the luvverly "Fletcher Honorama."
3)Depeche Mode, Construction Time Again: I remarked that Some Great Reward was a good album in and of itself, but that I'd never revisited it much because it felt like a warmup for a great one (Black Celebration); this time, I wanted to remark that Construction Time Again was like a warmup for Some Great Reward, but it really isn't; aside from a couple tracks, the band doesn't do a hell of a lot of "Goth" or "dark" here. The one big song I liked from this album and replayed afterwards was "More Than A Party," with its hilarious stomp-driving piano/bass parts, stupid ice cream lyrics and "ominous" high-pitched synth, and I know I'll always love that one. The synths are still very 1983 and as such very dated, but if you're willing to get past that (I can)...much as it shames me to admit it, the vast majority of these songs really do have good-to-great choruses!! Oh, sure, sneer at "Everything Counts" (in large amounts!) all you want, but it's catchy as hell. "Two Minute Warning," what a chorus. "And Then..." good mood piece. "Told You So," "The Landscape Is Changing," "Love Itself"...no mind blowers, but good. "Pipeline" gets snorted at for being a repetitive atmospheric piece but as background music it's not bad. Bonus tracks, "Get The Balance Right!" is totally 80s and totally fun. This is at least three and a half stars verging on four, a slightly guilty pleasure but both this and Some Great Reward were surprisingly rewarding to relisten to.
4)Fugazi, Red Medicine: I gave this a really high rating, like a George 11 out of 15, the first time around because I always had a terrible time with this band--The Argument, which I'd rate a 12, took years to really appreciate--I always assumed they were smarter than me, that all the critics' raves knew something that I just couldn't put my finger on. That's part of it--the other part of it was that I thought this was actually a really "experimental" sort of art-punk record, something different than their early stuff, and now that I've relistened to it eight times (six as background music, two up close with headphones) I can safely say that it barely is that. The deal breakers were the three songs from it that I remembered, which are still great--the rolling, rollicking "Bed For The Scraping," the creepy reggae-quoting "Fell, Destroyed", and the eerie, guitar-free (but a treated clarinet played by Guy Picciotto--sic?) instrumental "Version," which sounded like Tortoise's "Night Air," and which I have revisited quite a few times actually. But those are weird songs--Fugazi's straightforward post-hardcore rave-ups are just a big blur of monochromatic, if well-played stuff that almost never sticks in my head once it's over, which I'm now remembering is my real problem with the band, and that I've said so at this board many times. Oopsieboo. All that stuck with me this time besides the three songs I've mentioned was *maybe* the opening of "By You" and there's a song that has the lyrics "I hate the sound of guitars." But that's it--I'd hand this thing a George 9/15, now, and for the first time, I think I'm actually glad Alpha Hammer is no longer here. He'd tear me a new one over this.
5)The Apples In Stereo, Her Wallpaper Reverie: A 27-minute EP from 1999, this pads out six cutesy indie power pop songs with a 60s psych feel with a bunch of silly annoying musique-concrete (sic?) instrumentals, as opposed to the first two Apples In Stereo albums, which were also cutesy indie power op but less psychey, a little closer to Big Star on my now much-beloved Tone Soul Evolution than here. Those six songs are all pretty good--"The Shiny Sea," "Questions & Answers" (the best), the super-Beatles-y psych "Strawberryfire," "Y2K," "Ruby," and I forget what the other one's called but it's good. It's just a 27 minute EP though, it's not as essential as their other big releases--those big releases, BTW, have been getting LOTS of replay from me recently, and some of them I've been listening to for years anyway! Best cutesy band ever? Certainly they're my favorite of the Elephant 6 crowd! Do you like them?