Friday, December 31, 2010

Dissecting Sgt. Pepper

The Beatles are the world's most overrated band. Everyone thinks they are the best band ever, and they are all wrong.

Now, I can't say I hate the Beatles or their music. They aren't bad, by any stretch. They are all proficient (and *only* proficient) at their instruments, both McCartney and especially Lennon are good singers, they don't have many terrible albums, or many ball-tearingly bad songs. Their first album is really good as well (in my opinion their best, but I know I'm nearly alone here). In two words, they can be described as 'good' and 'consistent'.

But I am sick of people raving about them, and one album in particular; Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band. Look what people say about it on :

  • It is a superbly written, composed, performed and produced work of art, and the only possible ground for disliking it is sheer envy of the Beatles' talents.
  • Sgt. Pepper really is as close to perfection as music can come, it is one of maybe two or three albums that, if given the chance, I would not change a single thing. The music is perfect, the lyrics are perfect, the vocals are perfect, the production is perfect, every single note is perfect.
  • One of the most groundbreaking, revolutionary and inarguably greatest albums of all time.
  • An influential masterpiece that shaped cultures & social structures from then on and one of, if not the greatest record, ever made from the four most important musicians of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Completely ludicrous.

Not this guy.

On the same site, on which there are over 13,000 ratings of this album, it is rated the #8th best album of all time, with only the usual high-rating affair above it. (Dylan, Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Velvet Underground, and of course, two Beatles albums in the top two spots, ugh).

I've now given this album five chances to wow me, and it has refused to do so. If possible, it gets worse each time, due to my good self hearing more superior music between each listen. So, because of a disagreement of opinions with someone about this album, I thought it wise to actually go through, listen to each song, listen to the album as a whole, and say what I thought of each song on this grossly overrated album. As such:

Sgt. Pepper - Good pop-rock song. I like Lennon's voice.

With a Little Help From My Friends - Good pop song.

Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds - Meh. Look at me, I'm talking about drugs!

Getting Better - Regular mid 60's pop psych song.

Fixing a Hole - Meh. Bland and not memorable at all.

She's Leaving Home - Jumbled, not catchy in the slightest.

Being For the Benefit of Mr Kite - A really bad song in every way.

Within You Without You - Good song, but it's less of a Beatles song and more of a random Indian one. Completely apes Indian music, and shows very well how globalisation works on a world scale, the West profiting off of Third World countries. (sorry, I did a class on this at uni)

When I'm Sixty Four - Silly inoffensive song. At least it's catchy.

Lovely Rita - Really bad lyrics.

Good Morning Good Morning - Another godawful song. A complete mess.

Sgt Pepper Reprise - Hendrix riffs! Finally something exciting.. at the end of the album.

A Day in the Life - I'm not going to complain about this song. It actually has some form of emotion (in a Beatles song!)

Quick comments to be sure, a few average to good songs, one relatively good one (A Day in the Life), and the two Sgt. Pepper songs showed some type of feeling. The rest don't fare as well.

You know what I think this is? Millions of people either grew up with this album (and the Beatles), or the Beatles were their first exposure to rock music, as it almost goes without saying that the Beatles are very easy to get into. This album *is* average, there are no two ways about it. Strip away the fact that it is the Beatles, that every one loves it, that it is considered the greatest album ever, and it is a regular mid 60's psych-pop album that was lucky enough to have great production and studio trickery improve it.

But wait, you cry! It's the first concept album! But it isn't a concept album, just a bunch of songs bookended by two similar sounding songs, with fades. And even if it were, Ray Charles, the Ventures, Johnny Cash, Woody Guthrie and most importantly Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention released concept albums before the Beatles.

Also! It's the first album with lyrics printed on the LP! And with extensive gatefolds and imagery and such! Bully for the Beatles. Useful from a marketing perspective, but otherwise, it's a useless fact that fans throw at you when you say you don't think that Sgt. Peppers is the best album ever, similar to how many of the reviews I scan from the above gushes of praises say that if you disagree with their rating, you are 'jealous of the Beatles talent', or 'are trying to be different'. No, your favourite album is fucking average, that's all.

I think I've summed up this album well, so I'll leave it at that. The Beatles are overrated, and nothing can change that (short of everyone realising it, hence making it less highly rated).

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Closemindedness and Music

I'm getting sick of dealing with close-minded people when it comes to music.

Yes, everyone is biased and has some irrational opinions, but most people take it too far. I can sometimes come down hard on certain genres (indie and modern hip hop, go fuck right off), but at the very least, I give almost everything a chance, because even if I find I don't like it, I might discover a cool song or two along the way, which makes the whole effort worthwhile.

But then you get some people who feel the need to impose their ill-founded judgments onto others. Needlessly slandering a whole genre they think they know something about, but in reality, they don't. I can quote something like this for almost every genre.

"You listen to trance? I hate that fucking doof-doof music!"

"Classical? You preppy poser piece of shit!"

"Folk? What are you, queer?"

These people are generally just retards whose tastes are guided by whatever is in the top 40, or whatever 'scene' they are in. They can't realise that people that bag out their music do so mainly because they have to hear it every fucking day. They have to put up with it out in public, in shops, at work, on billboards and every other area where they are bombarded with shit. So when a mindless peon tells them a band they like is shit, they have every right to insult them, and their crappy bands/artists.

The crux of the argument, is fuck Short Stack.

How could you not want to punch them in the face and set their hair on fire? But that's another blog post.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Genre in Review: Modern Folk

A long time between drinks, but I am back, to talk about a genre I've really started to enjoy a lot; modern folk. Everyone and their dog likes Dylan, Cohen and Drake, and rightly so, they are brilliant. But enough has been written about them. I'm going to focus on folk artists I can almost guarantee you haven't heard of, artists that deserve the spotlight shone on them.

Entertainment for the Braindead

Entertainment for the Braindead is Julia Kotowski, from Cologne, Germany. She mainly sticks with acoustic guitar and her voice, but adds in random sounds like paperclips, staplers and the like. Basically, her album Hydrophobia is one of my favourite folk albums, but due to her managing herself and not having the resources to make many CDs, all I can find is this link to her album free online. If anyone finds out some way to buy this album, let me know, but until then, enjoy her live version of "What You Get".


Once again, Tamerlan is just one individual; Timur Iskandarov, from Serbia. Tamerlan focuses on what you can term more 'dark folk', with lots of tribal drumming, mysterious guitar and a general atmosphere of darkness. He's also a nice guy to boot, as I discovered whilst talking to him on Myspace. He just released a new album called "Worlds of Eternal Creation", which I recently bought and would encourage you to do the same. His first album "The Anti-Existence" is really good as well, even thought he told me it was an 'interesting beginning'. Well, artists are their own biggest critics, and you can view his Myspace page here.

Helen Shanahan

Helen Shanahan is actually from Perth, and it's great to see such talented people appearing from my home city. Her style is more pop folk, and as such her songs are extremely catchy. I've had the pleasure of helping make her a music video for her song "Mirror" and have been to several of her gigs, and can say without a doubt that she is a terrific person, both on stage and off it. She has an EP out called "Girl in Love" which I highly recommend, and it can be purchased from here.


Circulus are out there. Like, really far out. Someone described them as 'Britain's leading nine piece medieval prog/folk/space/rock ensemble', and I can't really dispute that. They believe in fairies and pixies, dress up in clothes from five hundred years ago, and play medieval music to crowds who sit on the floor at their shows. On top of that, they just sound cool. There's all kinds of flutes and lutes in their music, it's the real 'traditional folk', if you will. I've only heard their first EP "Giantism", so who knows what the fuck they are sounding like now. Their Myspace is here.

As I keep searching for music online, I'm sure I'll add to these bands as time progresses. Who knew there was any good modern music?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Music and the Internet

The relationship between music and the Internet is an interesting one. On one hand, with a small bit of know-how, it is easy to obtain pretty much anything that has been released that more then ten people know about, so this means more exposure to good music. (Still, I can't really say that, knowing the musical tastes of the masses is based around top 40 and other terrible mainstream bands, and maybe if they are extremely lucky, something like the Beach Boys or the Beatles.)

On the other hand, whilst maybe it isn't technically as such, it is still stealing, from the bands, the managers, the record companies. But I say, so?

Looking at them, they want Korn and Limp Bizkit

Alright, I don't feel taking money from the bands is right. But I've heard enough stories to know that artists basically get nothing from CD sales, it all goes to the bigwig companies. Maybe if you are a big name band with a few well-selling albums, you might get a good deal, but if you are Mr-or-Mrs-Nobody, you don't have a choice; it's either sign with us for next to nothing, or struggle to get people to listen to your music.

I can personally say without the Internet, I doubt I'd be anywhere near as interested or knowledgeable as music as I am. I was also there at the start of file sharing (spending 5 hours downloading Shaggy songs on Napster, brilliant!), and when I started to find and listen to *real* music, it helped me, whether it be through buying CDs on ebay, or downloading entire albums.

First and last mention of Shaggy ever on this blog, I promise

Yes, I did download entire albums, and still do, and this brings me to the hidden dark side of downloading a lot of music. Disregarding the legal implications, what about the musical ones? If you have access to any album you want, human nature dictates that you *will* download as much as possible. Which means you'll either listen to all of them once, and hence won't absorb them properly (that's usually 3-10 listens for me), or I won't get to all of them, and feel guilty. Either way, it wastes lots of time, without being able to appreciate the music to the extent I want to.

So now, if I download an album, which is rare, I might give it a listen once, and then go out and buy it, or at least put it on my wishlist. I don't listen to it again, because if I really enjoy it and listen a lot, why would I buy it? I might get sick of it, and I could buy something else I'd listen to more.

Another point is that with the exposure of sites such as rateyourmusic, allmusic and the like, there are simply too many good albums out there that we know about. My album wishlist was getting ridiculous, so I stopped using it; I like almost every genre of music, and if there is only 10 albums I need from every genre, that's still a ridiculous amount. But alas, that is another post.

Random thoughts:

  • I just came back from holiday, with six albums and one compilation from various genres. All have been good, but the one that's jumped out and surprised me has been Ornette Coleman's A Shape of Jazz to Come. It's the first 'avante-garde' jazz album, but it's really quite accessable, with a strong focus on the sounds of the sax and the clarinet. I listened to it for the second time whilst reading, and it really clicked with me.
  • As I'll probably detail at a later, I've been listening to a lot of folk music, and have discovered a modern traditional folkist I enjoy a lot. Her name is Julia Kotowski, she's from Cologne Germany, and records under the name Entertainment For the Braindead (approapriate name considering I'm a fan!). I found one of her albums through another blog, and it is 100% legal to download here, and I highly recommend you do so.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Album Review - Kraftwerk - Autobahn (1974)

Because I've been busy of late, I thought I'd be lazy and just grab a review I did a few years ago.

Kraftwerk - Autobahn (1974)

What can I say about Kraftwerk that hasn't already been said a millions times? They changed the way electronic music was viewed by the masses, and went on to influence everyone from synthpop (obviously), to hip hop ("Planet Rock"), to rock (Bowie and Iggy Pop are big fans), as well as mapping the way for trance, techno, house, ambient and basically electronic dance music in general. But lots of 'early' influential albums are now either considered old hat, or just not that great to begin with.

Autobahn is not like that. At least not all of it is. Groundbreaking for several reasons, as one of the first charting albums with an overwhelming electronic base, as a futuristic concept album, and with the highly unique drumming used, Autobahn was a completely fresh sound. Whilst still retaining a sense of their Komische background (the Motorik beat towards the end of the song Autobahn is a treat), Kraftwerk, with their new Moogs and vocoders, pressed into the future with a bang.

And with the revving of a car, we are welcomed into Kraftwerk's concept of the future. Giant highways as far as the eye can see, surrounded by green hills and plateaus, it would be an ordinary lazy Sunday morning drive in our time. But it's.. more efficent. Something is controlling everything. While it is a pleasant experience, it feels somewhat artifical. And it isn't long before monotamy settles in. It's the start of Kraftwerk's fascination with the concept of technology, and how it will change the human experience.

What I neglected to mention is that Autobahn is a brilliant song, regardless of concept. The synth lines are melodically pleasing, the drumming intruiging, and quite honestly, any 22 minute song that can have me as rivetted as this one can for it's whole timespan is a work of genius.

Unfortunately, the rest of the album just doesn't hold up. Kometenmelodie 1 is just wank, a sort of dark ambient soundscape that is uninteresting bar a nice piano riff near the middle. Kometenmelodie 2 fares better as a more upbeat affair of the title track, before descending into dark ambient again with Mitternacht. The second half of Morgenspanziergang has a nice piano/double flute combo, but is nothing to write home about.

The title track makes this an essential purchase in my book, regardless of the quality of the other songs. Autobahn will rightly go down as a defining moment in the development of electronic music, maybe THE defining moment. While Kraftwerk would go on to produce more consistently powerful music in later albums, Autobahn works as a sketch; of later dance music, and well as a society that may already be here today.

Here's a link to the heavily condensed sing version of Autobahn:

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Some Albums Are Too Long!

Yes, another rant, but this one deals less with modern music this time. Even going back to the mid sixties there has been one thing that plagued the album format; double albums.

Now, if you have enough talent and skill to fill an album with great ideas, go for it. The Minutemen certainly did. 42 songs on a CD? Awesome!

Once again, awesome

But there has been a major problem over the last twenty years. Artists see all of this excess space on the CD format, all 80+ minutes of it, and feel the need to fill it, regardless of whether the material is actually any good. Dance music is one of the main offenders, as I have 39 'pure' dance music albums in my collection, and I'd say about 80% are over 50 minutes long. About 10 of these albums were double albums, with over an hour and a half of music.

Somnium, take your seven hours elsewhere... Nah, you are cool.

But you can almost see a reason for dance music to do this; it's not made sit down and listen to as much, it's usually made for another purpose (such as dancing???). But I take offense at Sigur Ros and the other bands that drag out ideas for too long, without purpose. And especially prog, I hate you.

It's not just a modern thing though, I seriously wonder if anyone has actually listened to The Jimi Hendrix Experience's Electric Ladyland properly. If you want an example of wanking for wanking's sake (get your mind out of the gutter), this album is it. Overlong songs, and too many songs ruin what would have been a brilliant 40 minute album if it were cut down. But my dislike of wanky-ness in music is another topic in itself...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Popular Albums & Their Lesser Known Awesome Songs

Exactly what the title says!

Got Me Under Pressure - ZZ Top - Eliminator

Underlooked at next to Legs and Sharp Dressed Man (which have admittedly been done to death), but it's so... catchy, with a sort of weird sounding solo, and with a line that goes "She loves cocaine". That line sounds out of place on a mainstream album like this, but when they also have a song called I Got The Six (So Give Me The 9), I can't say it's too surprising.

Bye Bye Love - The Cars - The Cars

Everyone knows Good Times Roll, My Best Friend's Girl and Just What I Needed, and the fifty bazillion other hits the Cars had. No one ever mentions the perfect mix of rock and new wave keyboards that is Bye Bye Love.

Never Before - Deep Purple - Machine Head

The album with Highway Star, Space Truckin', Lazy and of course that 'other song' (don't make me say it.) The jerky riffs and Ian Gillen's overly awesome voice (even more so then usual) makes this a great track for all the classic rock fans that have thrashed out the other singles too much.

Untitled - The Cure - Disintegration

This is probably the Cure's most well regarded album, and rightly so, with songs such as Lovesong, Pictures of You and Fascination Street. The album is closed off with Untitled, a slow and emotional dirge that utilises an accordion quite well, that I think even triumphs the already mentioned songs.

Gut Feeling - Devo - Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!

Maybe a little less popular, but still, probably Devo's second most well known album. Devo made their quirky image with songs such as Mongoloid, Jocko Homo and their cover of Satisfaction, but they don't match the cohesiveness and awesome bass work of Gut Feeling.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Music in Cycles

I find it weird that whenever I talk to one person a lot about music and in depth, I find when it comes to what type of music they listen to now, as opposed to a month ago, a year ago, several years ago, the answer is always the same; I liked and listened to this particular style of music a lot back then, and I still like it, but now I'm fully immersed in something else.

To put this in context, at the moment, I'm in the middle of a 60's/70's folk-ish cycle, which means I've been listening to a lot of Van Morrison, Nick Drake, John Martyn etc. A few months ago I was in a stoner rock cycle, with Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age and Black Sabbath (close enough). Before that, I was in a psychedelic rock cycle, with Pink Floyd, Dr Phibes and His House of Wax Equations and Love.

Even people who focus on a more narrow form of music (only certain types of rock or EDM) seem to go between the different types of music in the genres they like. What does this mean? Is it a way to escape boredom in being constricted to only one type of music? Is it an attention span thing? Does this "Music in Cycles" thing prove the person it happens to is a true music lover? I don't know.

Random thoughts:

  • Van Morrison has one of the most emotional and awesome voices ever, and Astral Weeks is his masterpiece. If you aren't experienced too much in jazz or folk that can be a little hard to get a handle on, get Moondance first, but Astral Weeks is a must.
  • Speaking of wailers, check out Flower Travllin' Band's Joe Yamanaka. He seriously has a set of pipes. Satori Part 1
  • Making a song list for an upcoming party is reminding me how terrible pop music has been for the last ten years.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Random Album Reviews I

Today I thought I'd do something different, so I went to my dad's CD collection, closed my eyes, and randomly picked three albums to listen to and give thoughts on.

Now, my dad is a metalhead, with some interest in 60's garage punk, and with his combined CD and vinyl collections would easily have over 1000 albums, so I can't say I'm surprised that judging from the covers I picked three metals albums, two from the 80's, and one more recent.

Metal as a whole is one genre I've only really scratched the surface of, so this should be interesting...

Kreator - Terrible Certainty

Seems like a standard speed/thrash metal album, so it means there are some good riffs ruined by spastic sections. The vocals are pretty cool, and the self titled track and As The World Burns were good. Not much more I can say.

Dream Evil - The Book of Heavy Metal

Crap, it's power metal! And has possibly the most obnoxious and egotistical album title ever. And is filled with wanking guitars. In spite of this, I enjoyed it. It was heavy enough without going overboard, the singer's high voice surprisingly didn't annoy me, and it flittered around with a few different metal styles and instruments. In the end, it is still power metal.

Judas Priest - Point of Entry

Good, a band I've heard of. This is how you do power metal, and this is a nice slice of early 80's metal, before it had fully earnt it's 'heavy' moniker. Everyone knows how awesome Robert Halford is, and the rest of the band are just as good. I really need to get into Judas Priest.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Video Game Music

I guess the same can be said about music as a whole, but the last 10 years for video game music have been pretty terrible.

I was a big gamer in the 90's and early 00's, so I obviously heard my fair share of video game music. Back then, limited disc/cartridge space meant that the only feasible way to make music was through the use of MIDI, which basically consisted of just a keyboard. And you know what? The music was awesome.

The music was memorable, appropriate to the situation/game genre and most importantly added to the game. Tunes like the Super Mario theme song and the Tetris theme song are what most people will remember, but the 90's was the golden era for video game music in my opinion.

A good example of this was Streets of Rage, a side-scrolling fighting game on Sega Genesis/Megadrive. Not only was the game ridiculously fun, the music was brilliant. Who could forget the evil siren that announced that you were about to get your ass handed to you by the end of the level boss?

Pretty sure this is it

And that is one reason why I don't think modern games are as good as old ones. I know a lot of it is nostalgia, but the lack of music in modern games is a killer for me. I understand that realism is a big factor in games nowadays, which is why I don't like them as much. Why do I want to play realistic game? I find war games for the most part boring, so....

But back to my point, even realistic games could use good actual non-background noise music. Game soundtracks used to be released onto CD. Where are they now?

Rounding it out with a best 5 video games for music:

  • GoldenEye 007 - Nintendo 64 - Shouldn't even need to explain this one. Facility theme
  • Streets of Rage - Sega Genesis/MegaDrive - Great game with a great soundtrack. Moon Beach theme
  • Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time - Nintendo 64 - Probably the best game ever made, and this is its best song. Gerudo Valley theme
  • Chrono Trigger - SNES - Another one of the best games of all time. Hmm, seems to be a link between outstanding games and good soundtracks... Memories of Green theme
  • Sonic and Knuckles - Sega Genesis/MegaDrive - Stands out less then the others, but the music fit the levels so well, and the sound effects were great. Flying Battery Zone theme

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Ambient Music

Out of all of the different musical genres, the one I think I've been listening to the most in the last few months is ambient. I enjoyed ambient before then, but recently I've developed a deeper understanding and passion for the genre as a whole. It really is one of the more immersive and profound genres of music, once you can appreciate the lack of readily accessible melodies and the free-flowing nature.

As strange as this may sound to some, ambient, whilst being incredibly easy to make, is actually one of the hardest styles of music to make well. Most ambient is either mellow but completely boring to listen to if you don't wish to immediately go to sleep, or it's far too busy and you can't drone out/go to sleep to it. It's a delicate balancing act, and like in every genres, only the masters can achieve it. The best ambient also has what I call the 'transport factor', which basically means it is extremely evocative and paints a picture in your mind...

So, my top 5 ambient songs!
A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules from the Centre of the Ultraworld - The Orb

A brilliant 18 minute track that centres around an ethereal synth line, with random samples as diverse and tribal drumming to Minnie Ripperton's "Loving You", without being overly obtrusive.

Either Poa Alpina or Kobresia - Biosphere

Couldn't separate these two. Poa Alpina is almost dark ambient, without being cheesy, whilst Kobresia is filled with emotive string arrangements and lonely piano. Both conjure images of the Arctic Circle (which is where Biosphere is from).

School of Fish - Dreamfish (Mixmaster Morris & Pete Namlook)

This heads to the less ambient side, but it's still very relaxing. It has a very floating aquatic feel from one of the more prolific ambient gurus.

The Mysterious Fish Named Kun - Aglaia

Any of the three songs on this album are good, but I stuck with Kun. Aglaia's style is very traditional, very 'noisy' for lack of a better term, like something you'd hear at a massage parlor, which is ironic considering Aglaia is a masseuse.

1/1 - Brian Eno

The pioneer and one of the main founding fathers of the modern ambient era. A sparse piano track with floating synths played by Robert Wyatt, it almost invented what we consider ambient today.

I'd just like to add that all of these albums are brilliant as well, and there were some unfortunate omissions, which I might post later.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Welcome to Magnus Sonitus!

Welcome to Magnus Sonitus!

What will this blog be about? Well, it will mainly deal with my thoughts, ideas and especially rants about music, in general. There will be a lot of randoms bits and pieces about bands, artists, the music industry, and whatever other weird musical perceptions float into my mind.

Why do I feel the need to use this blog? The answer is threefold. Firstly, I hope to eventually get a career in music in some form, whether it being on the radio, as an actual musician or of course in the field of music journalism, and the skill of being able to write down ideas and musings into some kind of format is a useful one. Secondly, in all honesty, while I can respect others musical opinions for the most part, 99% of people's musical tastes are completely terrible, so I wish to potentially expose others to the type of music I enjoy so hopefully they can enjoy it or at least appreciate it also. Lastly, I anticipate that other musical nerds like myself will read this blog, and expose me to some brilliant music that I may not have heard otherwise.

What gives me the right to talk about music? You know how you get those people that say they listen to 'everything', and you find that means only classic rock and hip hop? I am the opposite. I truly do listen to everything, and if I don't, it's because I haven't either discovered it yet or haven't heard enough of it. Even genres I really dislike, like indie *shudders*, I'll still find some albums I'll like. Also, while 300+ albums is not much compared to some, I still think it gives me a nice background in different varieties of music.

Lastly, what does "Magnus Sonitus" mean? It's a very grandiose and overly egotistical Latin term meaning "important noise", which I think is self explanatory.

Now, random thoughts!:

  • I know it's old news, but why do people still look down on the Darkness with contempt? Their first album is very entertaining, and I personally enjoy Justin's voice.
  • I still feel he's overrated, but David Bowie's The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars is kinda growing on me. It's just so easy to listen to and inoffensive.
  • I only just realised how absolutely brilliant the drumming on Black Sabbath's Paranoid is. Seriously, just listen to Iron Man and ignore the guitar and bass and you'll see what I mean.