Album Review: Underworld - Barking

Electronic music duo Underworld released an uplifting new album, Barking, on 9/13/10. I have been a fan of Underworld for many years, and particularly like their unique way of keeping their music rather muted and chill, but with an underlying I-can't-quite-put-my-finger-on-it energy.

Underworld's most recent album, 2007's Oblivion With Bells was a serious disappointment, so I was nervous that Barking would follow suit. To my delight, when I heard the first single from the new album, "Scribble," I couldn't help but smile and dance. What a specatular energy Underworld was able to capture with this song! I was still slightly concerned that the rest of the album would be a bust since there were also one or two great songs on Oblivion, but I'm absolutely in love with this album. For some fans, though, this new direction might be a let down. Barking is more oriented toward the dance music side of electronic music than the simplistic but beautiful form their previous albums have taken. The music feels more open and free than their past work. Not in a good or bad way, but in a different way.

The album opens with "Bird 1," which is a beautiful song that adds to itself as it goes along. It is a perfect blend of the traditional Underworld sound with a clear move in a new, futuristic direction. The next two tracks, "Always Loved a Film," and, "Scribble," continue the direction of progress to a new sound for the group and would be amazing to see performed live. Incidentally, when I saw Underworld perform in Toronto many years ago, it was one of the best electronic shows I had ever seen. Somehow, they harnessed an invisible energy from very subdude songs (their older work), and transformed it into an amazing lifeforce which transversed the audience. On Barking, old school Underworld shows up especially strongly in "Hamburg Hotel," and "Moon In Water." The latter is a poignant song which resonated with me due to my curiosity about the nature of reality. I have included the lyrics at the end of this review for you to ponder as well.

Barking is a delicious blend of old and new Underworld and there isn't a single song on this album I dislike. I just wish it was a bit longer! :) It's amazing to me that Karl Hyde and Rick Smith (who are Underworld) are the same age as my parents and are able to stay ahead of the curve and have continued to make unique music since 1986.

"Moon In Water" lyrics:

The phenomenon of moon-in-the-water is likened to human experience / The water is the subject, and the moon, the object / When there is no water, there is no moon-in-the-water / And likewise there is no moon / When the moon rises, the water does not wait to receive its image / And when even the tiniest drop of water is poured out, the moon does not wait to cast its reflection / Does not wait to cast its reflection… / Manifest… / Doesn’t not wait to cast its reflection... / Past is already past / The future's not yet here / Things are constantly changing… / The event is caused as much by the water as by the moon / And as the water manifests the brightness of the moon, the moon manifests the clarity of the water

"Scribble" video

Underworld Official Website


My Ideal Fear Factory Album in a Parallel Universe

If you've never heard of Fear Factory, it is time for you to discover this exceptional heavy metal band. Now, just because I said "heavy metal" doesn't mean you should stop reading because you don't like that genre of music. Fear Factory does "heavy" like no other...beautifully. Burton Bell sings powerfully over crunchy, full, melodic music with a heavier beat and some electronic programming. Also, there are some sweeping, intensely beautiful songs which aren't heavy at all. Raymond Herrera, the drummer on all but their last record, is most likely my favorite drummer (besides Phil Collins, of course!). He's so tight and that style blends perfectly with the band's theme of people becoming machines. Each of Fear Factory's albums have had some phenomenal songs, and some good songs. I recently made a mix CD for myself of their best tracks and I can't even stand how epic this album is that I spliced together. I feel sorry for the people sitting next to me at stop lights when I have it blasting in my car, which is how it is best played. :)

1) Shock (from Obsolete): This song is the first track on Obsolete and that is just how it should be. It will rip your face off!

2) Descent (from Obsolete): The perfect single off of this album...easier to swallow than some of the heavier tracks with a melodic, singing chorus.

3) Resurrection (from Obsolete): This 6.5 minute beauty is one of the more dynamic songs from an already dynamic band. I love how it builds and drops over and over, very quickly. No time to breathe...

4) Timelessness (from Obsolete): This song is the last track on Obsolete and that is just how it should be (except on this mix CD, hehe). I wanted to put it last here but actually felt that the one I did choose to put last is more fitting and I decided to keep the album tracks together and in order of release date. The first time I saw Fear Factory live they played this song over the speakers after they had left the stage and the lights were on, and it felt to me as though a war had just finished and people were picking up the bodies. Morbidly beautiful, and I'll never forget it. I had to just stop and close my eyes and absorb.

5) What Will Become? (from Digimortal): Just a good, powerful song.

6) Digimortal (from Digimortal): Love this chorus!

7) Linchpin (from Digimortal): It's fun to sing, "You can't change me!" really loud while driving fast-ish. ;)

8) Invisible Wounds (Dark Bodies) (from Digimortal): My favorite song on Digimortal...it almost feels like a church hymn to me for some reason. I also like that Burton sings throughout most of the song. The short, heavy bridge is SICK though!

9) Archetype (from Archetype): This song features possibly my favorite part of any Fear Factory song for about the last 75 seconds of this track. Wow. "Open your eyes..." It fills an empty space in my heart.

10) Corporate Cloning (from Archetype): Well, I just like this one a lot.

11) Final Exit (from Mechanize): It is unfortunate that I've only included one song from the band's latest release (and yes, I realize I haven't included any songs from a number of their other albums, but it's my fantasy, mmmk?). This song in particular can bring tears to my eyes. It's about the moment of death and is very moving. It's so intense how Burton screams, "My soul!" then peacefully sings, "Goodbye."

If you'd like to read about the drama with member changes you can read the Wikipedia article on Fear Factory. I don't care much about that as long as the music is good.

Here is their Official Website.


AM Taxi - Giving a Fresh Face to Old-School - Concert Review and Interview With Singer/Guitarist Adam Krier

In support of their debut album ironically titled, We Don’t Stand A Chance, which will be released June 8, 2010, AM Taxi visited Orlando’s The Social with tourmates New Politics, Tyler Hilton, and The Spill Canvas. The show was sold out, so AM Taxi was introduced to many new ears and the crowd had a great time getting to know the band.

AM Taxi was recently featured as one of Alternative Press’ “100 Bands You Need to Know in 2010,” and are trying their hardest to make sure you don’t forget it. They have been touring relentlessly and aren’t finished yet, but are originally from Chicago. Promoting the struggling musician vibe, guitar player John Schmitt had a “FOR SALE” message scrawled on his guitar, but it was impossible to tell whether he was referring to the guitar or himself. Adam Krier’s chalky vocals blended seamlessly with the music which included keyboards, tambourine, and gang vocals in addition to palatable punk from guitar, bass, and drums. AM Taxi’s influences include The Replacements, The Clash, The Police, Elvis Costello, classic rock ('70s / '80s), older punk, and reggae. There was also a definite Goldfinger (minus horns) feel to their tunes. The crowd seemed a bit young to appreciate the cover of “Paint it Black” by The Rolling Stones, which was very intense and the highlight of the show.

Tackling the entire Warped Tour schedule this summer, Krier noticed that there are a lot of screaming bands and dance music acts and also some great, old punk bands on the tour. AM Taxi doesn't easily fall into any of these categories so it might be a nice change of pace to check them if you’re heading to Warped Tour. It took them five years to create their album We Don't Stand a Chance which came about from the band's experience of being traveling musicians and meeting so many different people while on the road. They found that a lot of people wanted to get out of the city they were currently in and how they were following blind ambition to leave. They didn't know what was out there, but that it had to be better than their current situation. The album was recorded live-to-tape, which is the main reason AM Taxi chose their producer, Mike McCarthy, after talking with over twelve other producers. He wasn't afraid to tackle the project and had the know-how to record the entire band at once, which adds such a fantastic vibe to the album. They also utilized a Wurlitzer organ, a Fender Rhodes electric piano, horns, and violin to get the sounds they wanted into the album. Krier was firm that they will never use computers (drum loops, synthesizers, etc.) to compose their music in the future.

Krier's parents were a huge influence on his musical taste as they exposed him to classic rock, garage rock, British Invasion, 60's Motown, older punk, and indie rock. Being a true fan of these genres of music, how does Krier feel when he sees a 13-year-old kid wearing a Ramones t-shirt? He's obviously hopes that person is actually a fan of the band and that they didn't just see someone on a reality show wearing the shirt so they bought one. If they are a fan though, Krier says, it is a good sign of things to come.

AM Taxi isn't trying to reinvent the wheel - they are just doing what they love. They will be back in Orlando on July 25 as part of Warped Tour and traveling across the country on the entire tour. Give ‘em a try!

AM Taxi Official Website

Video for “Fed Up”


CONCERT REVIEW: 30 Seconds to Mars

On April 28, 2010, 30 Seconds to Mars’ “Into the Wild” tour hit the House of Blues in Orlando, FL for a sold out show. After traversing the globe to promote their newest album, This is War, the band showed no sign of slowing down. Following opening acts Neon Trees and MUTEMATH, both of which did a fabulous job of warming up the crowd, and, in my opinion, were excellent choices for 30STM to tour with, a huge white sheet was drawn across the stage from top to bottom. Suspense builds, lights drop, and a spotlight shined on the sheet revealing singer/songwriter Jared Leto’s outline. Cue crowd of screaming teenybopper girls. Geez, I wish there were more guys here! I feel it would lend more credibility to how truly amazing this band is. The sheet is released from the top, cascading to the ground in dramatic fashion. Strobe lights erupt to the sound of “Night of the Hunter” and so does Jared. Spinning, running, jumping, he darts around the stage as if on fire, and it is impossible to focus my camera on him and his military-style navy blue coat and pink rimmed sunglasses. 30STM always puts on a spectacular, energy-filled, passionate show, but this is the best I’ve ever seen them. It’s been amazing to see how quickly they rose and really become a phenomenal band.

Shannon Leto is behind his massive drum kit on the right side of the stage which is stacked with both acoustic and electric elements that add to the overall sound of the music. The drums are wrapped in photos of the band’s fans, which 30STM prefer to refer to as “family” since to them it feels more like a cohesive group then an “us” and “them” thing. The band/fan interaction is a large part of the group’s outlook on their music. I was fortunate enough to be part of “The Summit” in Los Angeles in April 2009 where 1,000 fans gathered and recorded with 30STM for over five hours to become part of This is War. We clapped, shouted, whispered, stamped, and sang at the top of our lungs with Jared directing us the whole time to capture exactly what he wanted for the record. I loved seeing him so excited about what we were doing there and his process of creating music. It was an amazing experience I will never forget. Back to Shannon…Shannon is a monster on the drums. He has an earthy, natural, powerful way of playing that meshes with Jared’s songwriting perfectly.

After slamming through a slew of songs from This is War and 2005’s A Beautiful Lie, the band took to center stage for a calming moment with Shannon playing a genuine crystal bowl for his contribution to the record, “L490,” and donning an Asian-style jacket. Jared then headed out into the crowd to sing from the sound booth with his pomegranate mohawk and contrasting acoustic guitar. A medley of “The Story,” The Police’s “Message in a Bottle,” and Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance,” ensued, with Jared also looking for requests from the audience. As is typical in situations such as these, “Free Bird!” was yelled out, and Jared said that he would play it if someone could sing the first line of the song to start him off. Before playing “Bad Romance” which they first premiered on the
BBC’s Radio 1’s Live Lounge, Jared said that he likes Lady Gaga because she’s one person that he thinks is weirder than him. He had had ten people mention how weird he is today alone. I believe it, but that is often what makes for greatness.

Jared fought his way through the crowd back to the stage (and I was surprised all the females let him get away) and ended the set with more high-energy songs and the band headed off stage. A few times during the show Jared mentioned that he was inviting certain audience members to join them on stage during “Kings and Queens,” which is the first single off of This is War and features the gang vocals predominant on the entire album, so we knew they would be coming out for at least one more song. I was hoping for more than one, but it turned out to be the only encore song because chaos broke out when Jared invited anyone who wanted to to come on stage and sing with him. Around 50 people took him up on the offer before they closed the stage door. An enthusiastic version of “Kings and Queens” followed and the show ended.

If you ever have a chance to see 30 Seconds to Mars play live, please go. Even if you aren’t a huge fan of the music, you need to see it live and experience the energy that Jared Leto gives off. It is contagious. He is larger than life and isn’t afraid to show it and that is what makes this band a cut above anyone else out there today.

Set list:
Night of the Hunter
Vox Populi
From Yesterday
Search and Destroy
This is War
100 Suns
The Story
Message in a Bottle (The Police)
Bad Romance (Lady Gaga)
The Kill
Closer to the Edge
The Fantasy

Kings and Queens