Friday, July 24, 2009

I got some thoughts on some new music...


I have been a stryper fan since soldiers under command was released to the world, yes the whole world, and unlike most Christian music at that time (1985) Stryper gave us very young musicians much hope, due to the major label, major selling cross over that took place throughout most of their career. Stryper had the look, the sound, and they were undeniably the best pop metal band coming out of that scene, and i have a theory as to why it is so popular to make fun of them thought comes to mind, duh, they are Christians. Christians are so unpopular, right? Another would be that Stryper sang about Jesus and encouraged people, instead of having tons of sex with fans, and snorting drugs, etc. I guess to "truly" be a 80s metal band, you have to play the part....bullshit!!! Stryper, hands down, sang better, played better, and come on, the harmonies? No doubt about it, these guys were the real deal...

So i take it seriously, when they are around. I was bummed out when they broke up, and i was really excited when they got back together. The reunion tours were a lot of fun. Then the band dropped a new album. YES!!! I was so excited, but in my heart of hearts, i knew that the band no doubt fell victim to the Creeds, and all that other popular crap on the radio. Most bands of that era, when they reunite, seem to fall prey to the cheese that is modern rock. Unfortunately Stryper did just that. Their 2005 album REBORN was a disappointment to me. Now, to be fair, anytime a half decent rock song is played, and Michael Sweet sings on it, i hear that Stryper element, and it is worlds better to me than any of the current stuff. Supposedly Reborn was a solo album of Michael's and the band took those songs and used them, which totally explains the lack of true Stryper, classic Stryper element. So, fast forward to 2009. What is in store for the first, truly band effort Stryper album since 1990's Against The Law??? I had little expectation after reborn, but...what the hell, knowing that the band was actually going to write together for this one, being a band now, for a few years again, and knowing Michael has been on his A game since joining the band Boston. I will give this new record a twirl. Well...first off...this record is way more focused than reborn. The guys clearly have been reminded of what made their sound so special. Murder By Pride, is no doubt a Stryper fan record!!! All the big harmonies are back!!! Michael's power house vocal performances are back!!! (Including the old school high pitch vocals) Oz is shredding metallic leads all over the place!!! Robert is playing the kit with an urgency that hasn't been there since the old days. The production is much better (reborn sounding very independent) and while the title and cover art are nothing to get excited over, the songs are a refreshing welcome back, for the band. While this album sounds classic, it also fits snug with the modern alt-rock stuff that is happening now. Not a big deal to me, but the important thing to note is that the band has not outdated themselves, only doing what they used to. They found a nice balance here, which i thought was very relevant and showed they still rock, plain and simple!! There is nothing new here, mind you, if you hated classic Stryper, your probably going to hate new Stryper, but if you missed what made them so catchy and awesome, than there is some worthwhile songs to check out here.

Here are the songs, and my quick commentary on each...

1. Eclipse Of The Sun - Fast, catchy classic Stryper. Big harmonies. Great melodies. Could easily be a single.

2. 4 Leaf Clover - Heavy, slower, darker sounding, but lots of classic harmonies, and just overall good riffs. Catchy.

3. Peace Of Mind - This is the best Stryper has sounded in years!!! This should be all over radio. I saw Stryper play this on vh1 a year ago, and they killed!!! This song is a Boston cover, and features Tom Scholz, and wow...a stand out track for sure.

4. Alive - This song is the ballad of the album. This is a very classic sounding ballad, with Michael and a piano, and the band building. It actually turns out to be a really catchy song. Another radio sounding song.

5. The Plan - Another "radio hit" sounding song. This one sticks out as a more modern formula. Like the last 4 songs, this one is really catchy and has great hooks.

6. Murder By Pride - Around this part of the album, the songs are a little less easy to listen to. Sure, they are still catchy and heavy, and harmonic, etc...but they are less of what would be radio worthy. This is one of the more metal sounding songs.

7. I Believe - This song sounds like it should be on CCM radio. If anyone else would have recorded this, i would not have cared. The music is solid, catchy modern radio stuff, but Michael singing on this is one of his stronger performances. Great pop song.

8. Run In You - A smooth pop song, pretty chill. Great guitar work. One of the better songs on the album. Great chorus hook. This is a stand out, radio hit song. Excellent!! Also sounds very current.

9. Love Is Why - Also a catchy pop song. Less heavy. Enjoyable, but not the biggest song here.

10. Mercy Over Blame - This song sounds like it would have been on Reborn, as far as song structure. Heavy, groove laden, cheesy, i think. One of the less interesting songs, but those harmonies are there, and they sound so damn good.

11. Everything - Slightly classic metal in its sound. Not that interesting to me. Kinda annoying chorus back vocals. Another lesser interesting song.

12. My Love (I'll Always Show) - TRULY classic Stryper, because it is an old song that was never given the proper recording, and instead was turned into a ballad on the first Stryper album. This is an awesome way to end this return to form.

A quick note: Michael's wife died of cancer a few months ago, and Michael is pressing forward with a new Stryper tour. Keep his family in prayer!!!


yes, that is the name of the new Mew album.

Ok, some of you may know, i hate almost everything going on in music. Unless it is a band i grew up listening to (hence Stryper) or an occasional band that captivates me, i just don't listen to anything. Im bored. I have been for years, and years. A friend of mine burned me Mew's last full length "And The Glass Handed Kites" a few years ago, and i was literally floored by it. I felt like, for the first time in years, i was discovering a band that had a whole new sound all their own. This is true about Mew. There was nothing like it out there ever before, and i was so full of joy over it. I put that record in such high regard, and have compared it to all new releases since (2005) and every time a new album came out, that i was highly anticipating (The new Cure, the new Smashing Pumpkins, etc. etc.) and they fell flat on me, i always went back to Mew. I have always believed, ever since falling in love with their last album, that it could never be topped by anyone, even by Mew themselves. So, when they announced a year or 2 back, that writing and recording had begun for the follow up, unlike any other example, i felt promised that i was going to get a record that was not as good as the last, but still unbelievably good and still a thousand times more interesting than anything else going on. I was becoming a little obsessed with my guesses as to what they were building, picturing them like mad scientists in a lab, preparing for world domination. Than a month ago, Mew posted a new track. FINALLY, the wait was coming to an end. The new song took me by surprise, while i heard from the small tid bits from the band, that this new record was going to be less ambitious and epic as the last (I knew it) i was kinda expecting a song much closer to their less epic, epic - Frengers (2003). What the world got, was a really choppy technical prog-rock song, with a pop overtone, kinda in the vein of the song, special, off of ATGHK! YES!!! this album was going to kill!!

Now, i, and others, have the new album, and honestly i am really surprised by the lack of enthusiasm for these songs. A lot of people are disappointed that it was not better than the last record. This thought process led me to realize that it is unfair to judge a band like that and sentence them for not writing albums as epic as other albums they wrote. For one, the great album by Mew that we compare new Mew albums too, were still created by Mew, so we should look at the body of work and just be in awe of how much imagination they have, and still have. This new record is nothing like ATGHK, but it is nothing like Frengers, and it is nothing like anything going on now, or ever. The band still manages to capture the complicated things inside their heads, and painstakingly execute the record they are looking to make, and they take a long time, but eventually when the work is done, you have an undeniably urgent sound, and an overwhelming resume by one of the worlds last great innovators. So, before i do my track by track commentary, let me heard, and im shouting from the mountaintops, this new album by Mew is one of the best albums i have heard, since 2005, when i heard their last album ;) ;) First, some of the things, deemed "bad" about the record...
Gone is a lot of the nerdy prog rock that made the last album really special. Much less guitar overall in the mix and performance. The element of bassist Johan Wohlert (who left after ATGHK) is missing, and from assumption, he was the "heavier" element, because his new band, The Storm, has that nerdy prog-rock Rush thing going on a bit, so my guess is that was the missing piece to the puzzle. After that, i cannot honestly think of anything anyone could complain about, oh, maybe the fact that its so damn hard to remember the album title. Ok, now onto the important matters...

I won't be suggesting stand out tracks, because every song on this record is amazing!!! The album has a TON of atmosphere, and is keyboard heavy, vocal heavy. A lot of vocal experimentation is here. The album has a much less heavy attack, and is replaced by lots of drifty dancy pop songs, but the song writing here is so off the wall. A lot of songs are slow burners, where they play out over 5, 6,7 minutes long, and continually progress into other things. In a lot of ways, this album is more complicated than the past records. Sure, when i first heard it all the way through, i thought "um, this needs to grow on me" but i was patient with this one, as anyone needs to be. That is the key here: Patience, because we needed a lot of it, to give the band time to construct it. They deserve our patience and focus. This album is a stranger at our door, who once we get over the hump of inviting them into our home, will become a best friend to us.

1. New Terrain - This song starts the album off on an odd note. A good thing. Sounds like it is backwards, as if the band performed it backwards, and then they reversed it, so you could hear what they were trying to say/play. Weird idea. Then the song blows into this huge heavy dark wall of sound. Epic. Awesome. There is a twist of 80s new wave here too. The song ends with a beautiful keyboard, ala, the circuitry of the wolf from the last album.

2. Introducing Palace Players - This was the first song the band shared on the myspace site before the rest was heard. Whoa!!! Crazy timing on the drums and guitar, etc. Then it blows into a crazy jagged guitar funk song, with really technical drum work. Over top is gushing keyboards, and Silas layered vocals, carrying the melodies and the overall flow. This reminds me of Special, as i said before.

3. Beach - YES! A feel good quirky pop song. Beautiful. Catchy. Continually growing. Lots of vocals. So great!!!

4. Repeat Beater - Another song that was released before hand, on a special EP (along with Introducing...) This is the song that should be on radio, right now. Short, sweet, faster, tons of layers. I have no freakin idea what this band is doing, but it makes me want to go out and so something. I could listen to a 30 minute version of this song, but we get a 2 minute version here, making us want much more.

5. Intermezzo 1 - Less than a minute segue into another track. Weird keys.

6. Silas The Magic Car - Energy slows down here, just for a few minutes, to give us a beautiful quiet song, with a lot to look for. This song gives us a great simple stripped down vocal performance, which is good to hear once and a while from this band. Wow, such a great song. Makes me want to drive around on a summer night.

7. Cartoons And Macreme Wounds - Back to epic. This song starts with a Mew interpretation of The Beach Boys, vocally. The song goes into some strange tripped out territory after a minute or so. I cannot picture how this would sound live. So weird, so beautiful. Makes the hair stand on my neck. This is a more progressive song, i love it, it keeps growing into more, and different things. It gets quiet for a moment, and then there are several minutes to go. So inventive. Songs like this make me want to keep going in my own music, but songs like these also make me wanna give up!!!

8. A Dream - A short little segue into the next song, where Silas is just singing the title of the album in a weird pattern, with a quiet guitar, bass, drum performance. Beautiful even though its not really a full song.

9. Hawaii - Yes, weird drums and sounds, reminding me of Porno For Pyros a little, during their Good Gods Urge album. A full band doing the vocals together, the guitar is picking like a ditty, and it sounds like Mew street music. Oh but wait, a minute in, the surfy sounding guitar comes in, and the song takes a whole new direction. This is a great summer song, and even though i described it as a song that fits the title, its really not. Weird. Another slow burner, because half way into the song, it goes into a huge sounding, epic wall of sound, like the last record. Beautiful. Who saw that coming???

10. Vaccine - My wife and I agree that this is another song that should be a single. Super catchy beautiful upbeat song. The song builds and builds, and explodes into progressive funky weird pop. Then this song goes into a doomy dark heavy drum pounding conclusion. EPIC, people, like you wanted it to be!!! Godsake, this album doesn't just keeps delivering...

11. Tricks - This is really 80s dark new wave, meets Radiohead (ala Thief) Real danceable. Another catchy song. Great guitar moments. One of the more drifty songs too, it feels like they are floating away. I love the use of 80s sounds.

12. Intermezzo - Another minute long segue into the next track. Weird keyboards, and weird drums.

13. Sometimes Life Isn't Easy - Ok, back to epic, big, progressive slow, and everything else in between. I cannot give this (or many) songs any justice. There are horns, there are tons of keys. There are drum beats and percussion that are all over the place. Distorted bass. Acoustic guitars. Now, a beautiful break with pianos and keys, the song is building into something huge, finally exploding into one of the most beautiful moments on the record. Really catchy pop with lots of things going on. I know i keep repeating myself, but even though i keep describing it the same, there is simply no way to explain this sound to you. Its on its own ground completely!! One of my favorite songs, to be sure!!!

14. Reprise - Shhh...quiet keyboard/drum/guitar instrumental version of Silas The Magic Car, but it grows into an entirely new song of its own. Slow gothic sounding keyboards. Huge echoed guitars, tons of ambience. Back to quiet. Fantastic keyboard exit, slow and quiet. Wow. My mind has officially been blown!!!!

Now, a rant. I want to hear from people who keep saying this record isn't as good, or isn't interesting you, if you say you are a Mew fan. Honestly, how on earth does one person come to a conclusion that this record is not worth the time and money, unless they did a one time glance, and judged it without the patience and study that it deserves. I have listened to this carefully well over 10 times, and i am consistently introduced to new ideas, that are deep within the songs up front elements. Show me where Mew has gone wrong here. For every con, i will give you easily 10 pros. The proof is in the pudding!!This is easily the best record of 2009, so far, but like i said, its albums like this, that i put up high, and compare to others, and bands like Coldplay, and Radiohead have HUGE shoes to fill now. Mew have not broken into mainstream American audiences.....yet....and if this record (and really, the last) didn't do that for them, like it did in their own country, than music is really, officially dead. Lucky for us (and Mew) they are the opening band for Nine Inch Nails, on Trent's last tour, which will no doubt get some heads turned over to Mew's inventive sound. When this record drops (August 25) go buy it, and cherish it. There won't be a record this good, for a long long time!!!

1 comment:

Jonathan said...

Like you were saying with the falling into the modern rock junk, Living Sacrifice did this as well. They reunited at some time, though it doesn't matter when because they aren't what they used to be.