1)David Bowie, Scary Monsters: Opinions of this seem to be all over the place (and since each Bowie album now has a novel-length Wikipedia entry, I did a LOT of reading); the most common refrains are: 1)"this is his last great album" (often followed by a rejoinder about how every new Bowie album was called "his best since Scary Monsters), which I can't agree with, since I like Let's Dance and adore Heathen; 2)"this album doesn't seem to have any particular identity", which I agree with, often supplemented with 2.5)"this album sums up the entirety of everything he's done before," which I don't, because if it sounds like anything to me, it just sounds like a fourth Berlin Trilogy album, mostly due to all the Robert Fripp guitar bits, used here more than ever before and also easier to spot than ever. Whatever the purpose of the album was, I like five or six songs: always loved "Teenage Wildlife" (even if it was a "Heroes" rewrite) and "Ashes To Ashes" (don't we all), but rediscovered "It's No Game", which maybe could've fit on Aladdin Sane after all and "Kingdom Come," which I didn't know was written by Tom Verlaine! The title track and "Fashion" are both sort of good for a laugh, but I never understood "Scream Like A Baby" or "Because You're Young." Or "Up The Hill Backwards." The album is more good than not-so-good then but I will probably not purchase it.
2)Elton John, Honky Chateau: You know what's weird? How few Elton John reviews there are online. Only George seemed to put up a WRC page for Elton and he stopped with the disco album. That page gave the high "10" to this album, and the AMG gave it five stars too and from that basis alone I guess I generally thought it was supposed to be one of Elton's best albums, but I'd really only remembered "Rocket Man" at all and I've always considered "Rocket Man" a bit overplayed. Upon relisten, I immediately regretted having ever forgotten "Honky Cat," a wonderful song with not just a great melody but also one of the best old-timey keyboard tones (Fender Rhodes, I think) in existence. How did I forget such a wonderfully fun hit song? And then "Rocket Man" itself--still overplayed, yes, but "I think it's gonna be a long long time" is the real grand hook in the song, not "rocket maaaaan!" Now, here's the real question about this album: what do you think of the other eight songs? Do you even remember them? I sure as hell didn't, and the reviews seem barely able to talk about them either, breathlessly getting to the two big hits (and again, there aren't that many reviews)! Worse still, none of them actually *suck*--they all sound okay while they're playing. They aren't complete toss offs like the stuff that Elton padded out Madman Across The Water, and there's also no turds like "Indian Sunset" (gag) or "Goodbye." Their averageness makes it impossible for me to really ever think of this as a good album, ranking it just below average instead. I guess I sort of like "Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters" and "a cat named Herculeeees"! "I Think I'm Gonna Kill Myself" is probably the low point. At this point I think the quality of an Elton John album has been proven to be directly proportional to how good you think the filler is. And God did he and Bernie crank out a lot of it.
3)Jethro Tull, Benefit: I was way too dismissive of this album the first time around, remarking that it didn't do older-style Tull songs better than Stand Up and didn't do newer-style Tull songs better than Aqualung. I stand by that, but this is at least an adequate album, with about half of its songs managing to catch my attention this time around, just like when I relistened to This Was. One problem that Benefit has is also similar to This Was: I don't detect a single big standout song on it. Good songs yes, but no earworm that I'm going to relisten to over and over again, which is kind of a turnoff for me with albums, and is probably the biggest reason I ignored Benefit the first time. "Teacher" is a nifty little song with two memorable guitar riffs but I was never addicted to it. At least I got to rediscover "With You There To Help Me" (really cool windy uptempo feel to it with Ian's flute), "Nothing To Say" (quiet grim riffage), "For Michael Collins, Jeffrey & Me" (Ian hitting that high note is a HOOK!), "Inside" (pleasant flutiness) and probably the best, "To Cry You A Song" (more softly grim riffage, plus a big bombastic cascading part that Queen ripped off for "Doing All Right"!) I'd actually put "Singing All Day" on the album in place of "Play In Time" and "Teacher" in place of "Sossity, You're A Woman" which has an unusual title but no great melody to it. The album would now get an "okay" rating, but God knows when I'll revisit again, as it has five or six nice songs but still no huge classic.
4)Fugazi, End Hits: I was about to write this one off the same way I did Steady Diet Of Nothing and Red Medicine but the sheer weirdness of the damn thing--I really think these guys were going for a generally new sound for them in 1998--got to me on the last couple of close relistens and I'd bump this one up to "not bad." A quietly dark, grimy-city mood (like the album cover?) seems to pervade "Recap Modotti," "Close Captioned," "Floating Boy," "No Surprise" (does anyone think this could've been a dark Fall riff? NICE bleak chorus too) and "Pink Frosty." None of the good songs here blow me away, and indeed all I ever really remembered from this disc was "Arpeggiator" (which is a rather silly song for anybody let alone Fugazi). But the weirdness means I can't write it off as a colorless, monochrome blur of 90s punk rock like I did the Fugazi albums I don't care for. I mean, there's still crud like "Caustic Acrostic", but it's balanced by the weirdness way better than Red Medicine did, IMO. If only it had some songs as good as, say, "Life And LImb," or (here's a thought) "The Kill"!
5)The Fall, Perverted By Language: I think this is a decent album, but nothing more, and it's probably best played as background music. (You know what other album I said that about, for a defense? We Can't Dance!!) This isn't just because of the repetition, but the *length*. The wonderful grinder "I Feel Voxish" with its uptempo feel and the funny joke "Eat Y'self Fitter" were the two songs I loved and really the only two I truly remembered. It was also reasonably nice to "rediscover" "Garden," "Smile," "Tempo House" and "Hexen Definitive/Strife Knot" but that's because I just let them all hum away with their repetitive (but not indistinctive!) guitar parts; when I got to reading the reviews, there were loads of complaints about how long these songs are and how simplistic the guitar parts actually are. I listened to five bonus tracks, none of which I got into. At least this one's release wasn't anywhere near such a mess as Wonderful And Frightening World.