‘Harry Styles’- Harry Styles

With the inevitable end of One Direction, the question that remained to be answered (although the answer was assumed by anyone with a shred of insight) was which member of the group was going to go on to become the biggest solo star? Well, anyone who had been paying attention to the fabric of popular music even a little bit over the past few years knew that it was obviously going to be Harry Styles. He proves this true on his 2017 debut solo record. Right off the bat, he proves that he holds a level of maturity that his past group had never had and that he is light-years ahead of any of his old bandmates.

The opening track on the record is “Meet Me in the Hallway”, which showcases that Styles isn’t afraid in the least to let his influences shine through. It’s such a cliché to call something Beatles-esque, but hey, that shoe certainly fits with this track. It’s also worth the noting that the influence of Britpop is quite evident throughout this track and many of the following tracks on this record. The big hit single off the record, and the following track, is “Sign of the times”. This track, arguably more so than any other track on the record, illustrates Styles’ smooth transition from boyband heartthrob to mature singer-songwriter. This track hopefully had Ed Sheeran thinking twice about his motives (Seriously, am I the only who thinks there’s too much flannel floating around popular music right now?). Onto a completely different aspect of this record’s powers, believe it or not, it rocks. It really does. “Kiwi” is something off an off-brand Oasis-style hard rocker that features a dangerous level of strut and attitude. Styles has got just enough self-assurance to make a go at this whole rock star thing, should he consciously choose to go this direction fully in the future. This record’s got songs, no doubt about it. It’s got diversity. Just enough of it, in fact, to keep things mostly fresh right through to the end of it.

So, the big question has been answered going into this record’s release. Styles is without question going to be the superstar of the One Direction alumni. That’s out of the way and no longer an issue. The next question would be just how much does Styles have to offer? Can he build upon the successes of this debut record in order to make something truly magical in the future? Time can only tell. In the meantime, there is plenty to like about this record. The standout tracks represent some of the best of the year and this is without a doubt one of the year’s strongest records. This just misses being a flawless record, because the self-assuredness of “Kiwi” unfortunately isn’t persistent throughout the record’s duration. Styles’ nerves are apparent at certain points on the record, but who can blame him? You’d be a little nervous, too, if you were up against the odds that he was going into the recording of this record. He was in a race against his former bandmates to prove that he is the one who is going to carry the torch into the future. He won that race and did it relatively impressively. Get off his back. There will definitely be more good coming from him in the future. Beware, Ed Sheeran.



‘War of Words’- Fight

A project of Rob Halford’s after departing from Judas Priest, Fight released their debut record ‘War of Words’ in 1993. This new project of Halford’s represented a shift in musical dynamics from the legendary Priest. Sounding much more modern and possessing far less classical, overarching bombast than that band, Fight were a deliberate attempt on Halford’s part to put a stamp on the down and dirty, gritty sound of ’90s metal. Perhaps oddly enough, Halford’s soaring vocals are able to maintain a level of believability inside of this context. No matter how well things may or may not have worked on this record is an interesting debate, but no matter the verdict, this short-lived project would ultimately become just a little showing on Halford’s resume.

The opening track on the record is “Into the Pit” and seemingly exists as a greeting card to Halford’s newest excursion. Does it work? Well, the monstrosities of its urgency certainly want you to believe so. Halford sounds just as vibrant as at any previous time in his career, as if this was ever in question. The band show off the fact that they were quite diverse on “Life in Black”, which ultimately serves to show that the band were looking to be something more than just a one-off Halford project. The undisputed highlight of the record, though, is “Immortal Sin”, a song that is full of the typically gothic vibes that were present throughout the early-’90s musical scene as a whole, popular culture as a whole. This song, with its metallic inhibition, easily creates an image of the neo-noir, German expressionism-influenced works that were so persistent throughout this time period (films like ‘Batman’ and ‘The Crow’, for example). Fortunately for the overall strength of this record, Halford is clearly quite aware of the unique position that he maintains in the lore of heavy metal. He knows his strengths and he knows exactly how to articulate them every outing in order to keep things fresh and luscious for the listeners. The Metal God does indeed invoke God-like imagery with every shriek and howl he unleashes into this record’s musical offering.

For Judas Priest fans, there is much to cherish on this record. For newcomers to the metal scene, who may not be quite as in tune with the classical underlying of the genre’s illustrious past, there might still be something attractive within these unholy musical passages. There is quite a heavy dosage of dystopic, neo-noir imagery here, which is something that is intrinsically in sync with the context of the ’90s by which it exists. This record doesn’t quite sound like a Judas Priest record, because it isn’t quite a Judas Priest record. The main downside to this record is that the second half of the record tends to drag on a bit. What’s unclear about this unfortunate fact is whether this is due to Halford’s recognizing that he might be out of his element or whether the band just played it too safely and dropped the ball. For my money, it isn’t due to any conception of Halford’s. Nevertheless, the first half of this record provides some real gem moments from the early-’90s heavy metal scene. Many people were of (and still are) the opinion that heavy metal suffered a death in the ’90s and, although there many be certain areas in which there is slight truth to this, it’s certainly far from an absolute truth. Take a ride with the Metal God as he shows you. Well, at least on the first half of the record. Even a God can’t be perfect all the time, right?


‘Definitely Maybe’- Oasis

In the summer of 1994, Oasis exploded on the rock n’ roll scene with ‘Definitely Maybe’, a record that challenged the current flow of rock music at that time. Purposefully old fashioned, blissfully optimistic, and sporting enough edgy coolness to make the rock bands from Seattle think twice about the amount of flannel they were wearing, Oasis represented a direct shift in the popular music narrative back to status that U2 had left it. There was nothing that could’ve stopped this band at this point in time. Brothers Liam and Noel Gallagher represented a certain longing for something that was so missing at this point in popular culture and they were obviously acutely aware of this fact. What resulted from their ambition was something that changed the course of popular music for the better for years to come.

The opening track on this record is “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star”, a song that carries itself with enough charisma and strut that it hardly needs to even justify its own intentions. This is rock music at its coolest and the band know it. Noel, who wrote all of the record’s lyrics, has always had an untamable tint to his songs and his personality. His indelible charm and flawless execution of his own ascensions are second to none and the self-awareness that accompanies all of this is simply the icing on the cake. All of these qualities carry right over into the following track, “Shakermaker”. An interesting component to this record lies within its cocky strut. Knowing what we know about the relationship between the Brothers Gallagher today, isn’t it quite so that you can sense those conditions in this music? Isn’t this record just a little too cocky to maintain? The band prove that they can rock right alongside the grunge bands on “Up in the Sky”, even if they don’t take themselves as seriously. Truthfully, this attribute has always been one of the band’s strongest elements. When analyzed thoroughly, it becomes quite clear that the cocky strut of the band was never something that they took all that seriously. These guys always believed that they were destined to become the biggest band in the world and with songs like “Slide Away”, it’s difficult to come up with a sound argument as to why they wouldn’t have been so confident. This is the kind of ballad that gets stuck in your head and stays there for the rest of the day. The fact of the matter is, regardless of your opinion of grunge, Oasis was precisely the band the world needed at this time.

This debut record from the band that, as Noel once put it, were “the last and the greatest”, is definitely one of the greatest. These snotty, working class boys came along and restored the greatness of what rock n’ roll had always meant in a more traditional sense. There is absolutely nothing negative you can knock this record on. Filler free, this record is just too damn confident and cocky to get much of a contrary opinion in edgewise. The infectious spirit and attitude of this record is one of the most powerful, potent statements that the power of pure rock n’ roll music has ever unleashed upon the world. You’d have to be one miserable sap not to get behind this record? This is a shining example of that most wonderful of moments, a band captured on record at the peak of their abilities, truly unhindered, hungry, and out for blood. Is this the best rock n’ roll record of the ’90s? Maybe. Were Oasis the greatest rock n’ roll band of the ’90s? Maybe. (Probably, in fact.)



‘Third’- Soft Machine

Perhaps the leaders of the progressive rock scene out of Canterbury, England in the ’70s, Soft Machine’s stamp on the scene was far from accessible. In fact, the rules that the band played by weren’t really rules at all. Progressive rock and rules have always had a testy relationship, but Soft Machine were able to take that concept to a whole other level. Where was all of this coming from? Well, the outfit was essentially the brain child of Robert Wyatt. Listed as an influence by many artists over the years, including, not insignificantly, Roland Orzabal of Tears for Fears, Wyatt’s mind at the center of the band was able to further the intricacies of their overall center, their reason for existence.

The opening track on their third record, appropriately titled ‘Third’, released in 1970 is “Facelift” and immediately it becomes clear just why these guys were considered by many to be one of the foundations of jazz-fusion. The title of the track isn’t at all insignificant or misleading. You do indeed feel as if you’re receiving a facelift while listening to it. The sonic tonality of Soft Machine’s onslaught very much possesses the sensation of melting. Quite possibly, the reason for this is the fact that the band purposely thrusts this sensation upon the listener. On their first two records, though, the band would only hint at the full-bodied sensationalism that was to come on this third outing. Perhaps an appropriate way of viewing this record is to treat each of the four tracks as part of a much larger phenomena. Each one builds to the inevitable conclusion. Before you reach orgasm, as most of you well know, there are many sensations that pop up along the way. Like an eccentric orgasm, Soft Machine doesn’t go straight for the jugular. “Slightly All the Time”, at least initially, backs off on pace pushed ahead in the previous track. Like the sensation this record is being compared to, though, it doesn’t forget its central theme or purpose. The calculations and mathematical precision of this record are of such an astute profundity that it’s often difficult to fully intellectualize what it is you’re experiencing, much like… well, you get it. By the time the band break into “Moon in June”, it’s clear that they aren’t planning on slipping up on this record. Let your eyes not be mistaken, this is truly an example of what music is capable at the peaks of its power. Existence of God found in each carefully executed arrangement. Never fear, the moment you’ve all been waiting for happens during the final track “Out-Bloody-Rageous”, the record’s undisputed highlight and, of course, this isn’t surprising giving what this record sets out to do.

This is a flawless record of carefully crafted, well executed, not-of-this-world proportion. Soft Machine manage to make Yes sound like the Monkees on this record and you know what? Thank God for that. Many find Soft Machine to be too much. This is poorly-thought out judgment. What this band was, at the peak of their powers, was something truly extraordinary; something that didn’t understand or even care about the idea of conventional musicality. The jazz and classical sensibilities ring true throughout the full duration of this record and are, at the end of the day, certainly more telling to the band’s center of gravity than good ole rock n’ roll music. So, sit back, relax, and take your time with this one. This record is sure to be a slow-burner for most everyone, especially those unfamiliar with the Canterbury scene or progressive rock music as a whole. If you stick it out, though, you just might find a little something about yourself that you didn’t before spinning this one. Perfection.


‘Crowded House’- Crowded House

When Neil Finn put Split Enz on hold for the much more straight-ahead pop sound of Crowded House, it shouldn’t have been as much of a surprise as it probably was. The frantic experimentation of Split Enz certainly differs from the simplistic sentimentality of this self-titled record from 1986. That’s a given. As time wore on, though, Split Enz did become noticeably more pop-oriented. Crowded House, if anything, served as the end product of Finn’s more accessible tendencies within his artistic capabilities. You can hear the transition from “History Never Repeats” to anything on this record as easily as you understand the flow of this record’s ambition.

The opening track on the record is “Mean to Me”, which serves as the icing on the cake as far as Finn’s complete transition from art rocker to pop star. It’s also important to note that he sounds as if he’s been freed on this song and this record. You can feel the relief of being the part of a much simpler project in every note that he utters throughout this record. There is a freedom, a simplistic freedom that carries this record’s strongest moments. Keep in mind that there is an emphasis here on ‘strongest’. There is a certain amount of filler scattered throughout this record. Fortunately, this record houses “Something So Strong”, which is without question one of the most blissful pop songs of the ’80s. This is track is only to be outdone on the record by “I Walk Away”, a pretty similar track that just happens to do it a little better. Obviously, you can’t talk about this record without mentioning “Don’t Dream It’s Over”. This track, though loved by many less-than-demanding pop radio listeners of the decade, just seems to be a little off the mark. It’s an okay song, but it doesn’t share the sense of freedom that the two prior mentioned tracks do. There’s nothing wrong with the track, but this fact remains apparent. Is it the worst romantic ballad of the decade? Certainly not. Is it the best? Far from it.

At the end of its duration, this record leaves a mostly positive impression on the senses. It’s pretty good. It’s far from perfect, though, and one of the reasons for this is that Finn seems to have left his knack for quirk and adventure behind. Yes, there is plenty of bliss on this record, but too often the songs sacrifice any sense of adventure just to squeeze in a few more guaranteed spots on the radio. Some of the charisma is missing. It’s unfortunate to say, there are a couple of particular tracks that really shine. Another component of this criticism, though, is the fact that it’s difficult to feel too strongly for any kind of derision of the product. The uninspired moments aren’t usually too painful. For this reason, many of the record is easy to forgive. Finn and the band were looking to create a crafty ’80s pop master formula with this release and, ultimately, they don’t succeed. At all. These guys aren’t Marshall Crenshaw. What they are is a mostly solid band that, when they’re at their best, are pretty good at what they do. For many, this will be enough. It’s easy to be cynical with bands like Crowded House, but the ends rarely justify the means in this pursuit. What crime have they committed? If nothing else, you at least have to commend the two standout tracks mentioned above. You could do worse than this.


‘Lost Themes II’- John Carpenter

Horror film director, often identified as the “master of modern horror”, John Carpenter, released ‘Lost Themes II’ in 2016. The sequel to ‘Lost Themes’, released the year prior, the record is just what it says it is. Carpenter has famously composed many of the soundtracks that accompany his films. In this art, he’s long been one of the best in the business. The theme from his film ‘Halloween’ has become one of the most popular and recognizable themes in the history of cinema. Not to mention, one of the most spine-chilling and nerve-wracking. Carpenter manages to be an accomplished film score composer mainly because of his keen grasp of his own subject matter and an ability to transfer that into a musical setting. Carpenter balances being both a great director and a great composer, he’s an artist in the truest sense of its meaning.

The record opens with a piece called “Distant Dream”, which feels like a piece that could have easily fit in on any of Carpenter’s ’80s films. This track is full of all of the hideous wonder perpetrated in many of Carpenter’s films. Wonder is the correct word here. One of the things that made ‘Halloween’ such a frightening film was the fact that the overall violence of Michael Myers’ killings was understated. The film was much more enveloped in what Myers represented; a force of pure evil, a lifeform without conscious, understanding, or reason. Within the context of ‘Halloween’, which is what most aspects of his legacy end up leading back to, this sense of dread, wonder, and refinement is precisely the way this record presents itself. The following track, “White Pulse”, has an opening that will almost certainly go down as one of Carpenter’s creepiest pieces. One does begin to wonder at about this point in the record, what does this release mean for Carpenter’s overall career? Why has he chosen to deliver the ‘Lost Themes’ series to us now? Is his career as a filmmaker over? Or is this just something cool that he thought of to do? Aside from the bigger questions, though, one can’t deny the potency as vibrancy of this record. One other moment of interest and intrigue on this record is the track “Virtual Survivor”. With a seeming basis in the world of science fiction and a touching upon a robotic synthesis, images of Isaac Asimov and the Alan Parsons Project with their respective tellings of ‘I Robot’ wouldn’t seem too far off of what Carpenter appears to be aiming for here.

This release is a solid one from Carpenter. Again, it would seem that his ability interpret full-length stories as instrumental pieces is something deeply instinctive in his personality. There are relatively few who have his level of competency in accomplishing this. Whether or not he will make another film and the bigger questions surrounding the implications of this release are totally irrelevant to the overall pictures that the pieces of this record pain in the mind. Other than a few moments, albeit quite brief moments, of sameness, this is about as good of a collection of instrumental pieces as you could possibly hope for. Carpenter does what he does best here. This is a hodgepodge of his imagination that is equal parts wondrous, horrifying, eerie, and inquisitive. For fans of his films, this is sure to be a real treat. Not only had Carpenter proven to be one of the absolute best, most imaginative filmmakers of the 20th century, but his powers aren’t limited to a single form of expression. This serves us all in a positive manner.


Alice Cooper at Vetter Stone Amphitheater (June 9th, 2017)

There is a certain vibe in the air when you enter the venue where an Alice Cooper concert is about to happen. You get the feeling that you’re inevitably about to experience something that is going to give you a sense of awe and wonder. This feeling is not one that has diminished over the years, even if the overall impact that Cooper has nowadays is different than in his heyday. The climate of popular culture looks much different in 2017 than it did in, say, 1972. The fact that Cooper remains a vitally important and excruciatingly youthful live act is the ultimate testament to his legacy. On Friday, June 9th, Mankato, Minnesota was made witness to all of this.

The opening act was Shannon Curfman, a blues-rock guitarist who managed to put on a more than competent set with her backing band. They kept things pretty low-key, perhaps a conscious decision to further amplify Cooper’s coming onslaught. Nevertheless, it was a fine set. There definitely seems to be a quality to heavily blues-influenced music that makes it the near-perfect middle ground for an audience. Most people, regardless of the core of their musical tastes, seem to be cool with this type of music, particularly in the live setting. This set, with all of its grace and comfortability, played a vital role in acting as a pre-show ritual to put the audience at ease. Curfman seemed to be quite aware of the juxtaposition of herself and Cooper on the same bill and she used this acute awareness to play things as earnestly as imagined possible.

By the time Cooper and his band came out on stage, the energy in the arena took no time in changing its tune. Appropriately enough for the change in atmosphere, the band immediately ripped into one of Cooper’s heaviest tracks, “Brutal Planet”. Cooper is a relentless live performer, unapologetic and playing the role of the villain. Nothing about this has changed. In fact, at the age of 69, his ability to grab ahold of the audience and strangle them lifeless is just as good as it’s ever been. This time around, he carried a set that was full of deep cuts and little known gems that hardcore fans like myself have long dug (“Pain”, “The World Needs Guts”, “Escape”, etc.). Perhaps the single most impressive thing about this show was the absolute ease that Cooper was able to maintain his posture in character. There are no slip ups. None. He is the villain, period, and yet he is the villain that you can’t help but sympathize with. You understand why the villain does what he does and, of course, his lines are always much better and fulfilling than anything the boring hero has to say. The undisputed highlight of the set was the most spirited and nightmarish rendition of “Ballad of Dwight Fry” that I have ever heard. With sweat streaming down my face and the hairs on my arms raised as high as they can be, I was filled with the sense that what I was experiencing was something that was truly part of something that could never be again. Cooper is the best of a breed of artists that just doesn’t exist anymore. You can’t help but wonder if this undeniable fact is what keeps him so invigorated and inspired at this stage in his career.

Seeing Alice Cooper live is not something that a blogger like myself is capable of doing justice in explaining to you. It’s something that you absolutely have to experience for yourself, otherwise you’ll never know what you’ve been missing all this time. There is no other live act that can follow him up. Not one. He’s the best there is and that’s quite simply all there is to it. With the release of his upcoming record ‘Paranormal’ (which will be reviewed promptly on this site after its release) proves that he isn’t interesting in slowing down any time soon. This couldn’t be better news for the world of popular culture. At this stage in his career, Cooper knows that he isn’t the transgressive force of shock value that he used to be. Luckily, he’s smart enough to understand this and plays it all off today as nothing but pure entertainment and a celebration of all that has ever been great about rock n’ roll and heavy metal music. He’s a true treasure and it’s good to know that he’s not going anywhere for the foreseeable future. Do yourself a favor and go see him work his craft.


‘Altered Beast’- Matthew Sweet

Matthew Sweet’s 1993 release, ‘Altered Beast’, struts along with much of the same neurotic, off-kilter rock n’ roll attitude that had defined much of Sweet’s earlier output. Ever since the days of Buddy Holly, there have always been figures in rock n’ roll who aren’t, in any kind of traditional sense, cool. Most of these figures have, importantly, gone on to reinvent or adjust the meaning of cool in a rock context. Are Talking Heads cool? Well, yes. Elvis Costello? Duh. This sort of avenue of rock is exactly where Sweet fits in and thank God for this. Have you ever looked up at what is more traditionally accepted as rock God status and thought that, as cool as it can be at its most grandiose and otherworldly, that it just isn’t steeped in realism? Well, that’s because it’s often not. Generally, figures like Sweet are more understandable through the eyes of the typical listener (this is not meant to demean).

The opening track on this record is “Dinosaur Act” and it starts the record off on a typically high note within Sweet’s usual vein of power pop. The track that is the undisputed highlight of the record, though, as well as perpetrating a sense of blue-collar torture and everyman ‘lover beware’ kind of sentimental warning inside of its beautiful melody and infectious stylings. There were few pop songs in the ’90s that were better than this absolute gem. Another highlight is “Time Capsule”, which maintains its own center of gravity on a record that is full of center and gravity. It’s really no wonder why this record flows so easily. After all, with guests like Mick Fleetwood (Fleetwood Mac) and Richard Lloyd (Television) on a record, it’s fair to say that there’s an obligation to maintain some kind of head-above-water level of competency with your craft. One of the records more rocking moments is “Ugly Truth Rock”. In this track, you’ll hear more than a little bit of ‘Life’s Too Short’-era Marshall Crenshaw and there’s definitely no shame in that. Although Sweet doesn’t have the same level of magic with his craft that Crenshaw does, he does have enough of a pedigree to pull it off convincingly and without a shred of inauthenticity.

So overall, this is a good record. As is mentioned above, this record maintains a perfect center of gravity. This is quite an impressive feat when you account for some of the more neurotic songwriting and Sweet’s obviously ’90s aesthetic. The only real sin that this record commits is that it will throw some filler out at you from time to time. However, this is by no means prevalent or invasive on the overall standing of the record. Center of gravity, remember? The simple fact is that you could do a whole lot worse. There is an earnestness and a refinement to Sweet and his songs that make it difficult to not indulge. It would seem that he has found out and, even more importantly, not taken for granted the art of good ole simplistic rock music. You know, the stuff that made everything that came after it possible in the first place. He gets this, but of course puts his own unique ’90s touch on the formula. This is good stuff. You won’t make a cynic out of me on this one.


‘Super Duper Alice Cooper’

For many years, there had never been an honest, well-intentioned look at the life and career of Alice Cooper. All of that changed in 2014 when Banger Films came together with the legendary shock rocker to create ‘Super Duper Alice Cooper’. There couldn’t have been a better crew to put this together than Banger; anyone who is familiar with their work knows that they always do their homework and there are no better ambassadors for pushing the understanding of metal music in a critical context. This makes Alice Cooper a perfect subject for the folks at Banger, as it’s no secret that Cooper has long been a misunderstood artist. The end result is pure magic and Banger points out a fact about Cooper’s career that fans (like myself) have known all along: underneath the trappings of outrage (which in and of themselves have long been misunderstood), lies one of the most profound minds and creative forces in all of rock and metal.

One of the cool things about this biopic that sets it apart from many of its contemporaries is the way the that Sam Dunn, the director, has chosen to portray this film. It isn’t your typical biopic and/or documentary in which the audience is subjected to interview sequence after interview sequence over and over again. This picture has lots of color, which is of course fitting considering that Cooper is the subject at hand. This is also particularly useful and important when looking their Cooper’s own eyes. He isn’t a man who is bitter or regrets the so-called good ole days in the least. Within his own recollection and the film’s very nature and essence, there is a warmness that is perpetrated and carried out by this film that is quite reminiscent, at least in spirit, to certain episodes of Banger’s great series, ‘Metal Evolution’. There is a love of subject matter that is always worn by Banger that perfectly supplements Cooper’s own devices and outlook on his own legacy and career. Another thing that this film does in incredible fashion is the way that it ultimately is able to separate the character from the man, playing off the Jekyll and Hyde concept in a striking, poignant sense. The humanization of Cooper, though, is perhaps the film’s greatest quality. As a fan, the conclusion should bring you to tears even if you’re already familiar with Cooper’s career resurgence and the sobriety that he has held on to for over 30 years. The lesser known bits, like about Cooper’s childhood, his family, pre-high school life is something that also goes the extra mile in painting a portrait of a man who is, above all else, human.

This biopic is a step above all of the rest. This film does everything right; painting a lovely and infectious view of Cooper’s life now as well the decadent times of the ’70s, while also being shocked and in horror on just how bad things were always capable of becoming. The guests on this biopic, including Elton John, Dee Snider, and John Lydon give you a picture of just how well-loved and accepted Cooper has long been, often contrary to conventional wisdom. One of the great underrated artists of the 20th century; there are many movements of rock and metal that, had Cooper never made his stamp on the scene, would never have existed. Aside from the fascinating subject that is Cooper, equal credit must be given to Dunn. After all, he was the man who took this project and allowed it to flourish. There is no be documentary filmmaker in the world to create a project like this. His mastery has done many things in the world of music biopics and, perhaps even more importantly, Dunn is the ultimate torchbearer for metal music, a broad genre that has long been misunderstood and misrepresented by those who aren’t on the same wavelength. This film will also (hopefully) change the minds of any naysayers out there who still think that Cooper is nothing but a theatrical performer with little actual talent. If this is you, you’re probably not a fan of this particular blog. Pity is reserved for you. This is as good as it gets.


‘Priest=Aura’- The Church

In case ‘Starfish’ and ‘Gold Afternoon Fix’ didn’t carry enough of a dreamy, psychedelic, otherworldly vibe, the Church made sure to apply the necessary remedy for that on 1992’s ‘Priest=Aura’. It’s difficult to call this a rock album, as the Church seem to have had completed their transition away from rock n’ roll altogether with this record. It’s been noted over the years that the band’s leader, Steve Kilbey, was into heroin throughout the ’90s. This is not an insignificant soundbite within the context of this particular record. If there was ever a record that sounded as if it owed its very existence to the usage of heroin, this is that record. For Kilbey, it was a creative tool. He’s notable for having a view of the drug that is less than conventional in the eyes of the general public. Regardless, its impact on this record is evident.

The opening track on the record is “Aura”, a seven-minute ditty seeping in the sort of mysticism and spiritual nature that the band had become famous for over the past few preceding records. The following two tracks, “Ripple” and “Paradox” feel very similar in tone to this opening track. Thematically, “Ripple” is arguably the peak work of the Church’s mystical side while “Paradox” feels like an ode to the heroin use that was prevalent in Kilbey’s life at this time period. The rich, albeit gloomy textures of this record help to present a subject matter that isn’t of this world. In fact, it isn’t until “Feel” that the band treat the listener to a track that is somewhat upbeat (even this track is far from being traditionally upbeat). It should be noted, though, that the material present on this record isn’t purposely gloomy. The subject matter is often apparently motiveless. The elements of this record that give it the most character are Kilbey’s impassioned delivery and the rest of the band’s appropriate renderings of their own musical arrangements. Without this, much of the record’s lyrics would read as mystical poetry; omnipresent and without judgment one way or the other. The conviction belongs to Kilbey, who is utterly and passionately enveloped in the world that this record exists in. One other highlight on the record is “The Disillusionist”, telling the story of a mystical figure with such acute vision and lyrical imagery as only to persuade the listener once again the humor the vision of the band.

What this record represents is the culmination of everything that the band ever wanted to be. Kilbey has said with great assurance that he views this as the band’s greatest record. What is almost certainly true about this record is that it is the greatest record at portraying everything that the band had ever hoped to be remembered for. This record maintains a highly ambitious vision throughout its full duration and, most importantly, is capable of keeping itself on the right path and not straying off into the vast fields of confusion which often exist around projects like this one. Whether or not this is the Church’s best record is debatable (although probable), but what’s more important is that it is the record the best presents the band executing all of the bits and pieces of their repertoire that has always made them a highly unique musical unit. In that spirit and in the spirit that there are relatively few other records that truly sound like this (of which none are better), there is practically nothing negative one could say about this record.