Sunday, 26 December 2010

Coldplay - Prospekt's March [EP] (2008)

1. Life in Technicolor ii
2. Postcards from Far Away
3. Glass of Water
4. Rainy Day
5. Prospekt's March/Poppyfields
6. Lost+
7. Lovers in Japan (Osaka Sun mix)
8. Now My Feet Won't Touch the Ground

Now it’s Complete – 7,8/10

On its own, Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends didn’t really feel like a whole full-length release, even though I said it was their best at the time. I am probably biased in my judgement of that album alone, because I never knew the album that well without the Prospekt’s March EP attached to it. This little addition to the main album made it complete as this would probably have been on the album itself if the record label would have shown a little more patience.

In terms of sound, ambience and songs, this little EP picks it up where Viva La Vida Or […] had left it. There’s the intimate and somewhat experimentally acoustic sound again. This even features a new, finished version of “Life in Technicolor”; this time appropriately entitled “Life in Technicolor ii”. This version further expands the instrumental concept of the first edition and adds vocal melodies and lyrics to the song. Now the song is finished it has become one of my Coldplay favorites. “Postcards from Far Away” is purely an instrumental resting point between the drum-heavy “Life in Technicolor ii” and the explosive “Glass of Water”, another one of Coldplay’s best tracks ever. The verses feature a somewhat funky rhythm and the chorus explodes with the bombast of the X&Y album and the intimate sound of the 2008 album. “Rainy Day” further expands into unusual rhythms with its computerized intro and uses the same synthesizer-sound as in “Viva la Vida”. “Prospekt’s March/Poppyfields” is a beautiful ambient ballad, somewhat reminding of the gentle tracks from the Parachutes era.

Then come the rehashes. “Lost+” is a new rendition of “Lost!”, this time with rapper Jay-Z contributing some raps on the bridge. His voice wasn’t mixed properly in the music, not to mention “yeah, uhuh, I got you, uh” doesn’t match Coldplay’s attitude. In other words: this version pretty much fails. Then there is “Lovers in Japan (Osaka Sun mix)”, which is just the same song as the album version, but just without “Reign of Love” attached to it and with an extra voice dub in the second verse. “Now My Feet Won’t Touch the Ground” has this typical bedroom-ambience they also created on X&Y’s “Til Kingdom Come”, except that this time there are additional instruments that join the track about halfway. It’s a quite satisfying closer to the “Viva la Vida”-era of one of the most relevant bands of today.

In the end, Prospekt’s March is a very welcome addition to the Coldplay discography, even though most of the tracks featuring here simply should have been on the actual album. Still, I’m glad they were released, even if eventually. Highly recommended to fans of Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends.

Strongest moments: “Life in Technicolor ii” and “Glass of Water”.
Weakest moment: “Lost+”.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Coldplay - Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends

1. Life in Technicolor
2. Cemeteries of London
3. Lost!
4. 42
5. Lovers in Japan/Reign of Love
6. Yes
7. Viva la Vida
8. Violet Hill
9. Strawberry Swing
10. Death and All His Friends

Well Worth the Wait – 8/10

Coldplay albums have always shared one thing: they were always well-received and always very different from the previous release. Not to mention every album has its fair share of big hits. Yes, commercially, Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends was no different in those aspects. After all, there’s probably not a single soul in the world that hasn’t heard “Viva la Vida” at least once in their lives. Having worked with producer Brian Eno on this album, expectations were high and I think they’ve been lived up to.

Where to begin with describing the differences with previous efforts? There’s so much difference. First, the band experimented with different recording locations, which is quite evident in the somewhat intimate sound they developed. It all comes right at you. Vocalist Chris Martin more often uses his lower register and only rarely uses his trademark falsetto, which made famous hits like “Talk” or “Clocks” so memorable. No, it’s quite evident Coldplay wants to take a different approach this time. Compared to X&Y, the album is a lot gentler. There are no rock tracks like “Talk” or “Speed of Sound”. Instead you get these modest songs like “Cemeteries of London” or “Lost!” that show a completely different side of the band, but it’s one side that’s been quite fully explored on this album.

The album opens with the somewhat exotic sounding instrumental “Life in Technicolor”. It’s a brilliant intro to the album and is built up really well with a great climax just before we pass on to “Cemeteries of London”. This track is quite uplifting but very ambient at the same time. Since the whole album relies on ambience, this album really is a grower and needs patience. “Lost!” is a drum-heavy song that somewhat takes the listener into a trance with its ongoing rhythm. Then with “42” we get ourselves a mini-epic sharing the same build-up as X&Y’s “Fix You” by first being extremely gentle and in the middle burst out into a more upbeat middle part. One of the album’s highlights is the uplifting “Lovers in Japan”, another song in which drummer Will Champion shines. Watch Jonny Buckland’s guitar riff as well, it’s extremely catchy. It’s a bit of a shame that this song is tied to “Reign of Love”, a very gentle ballad that’s not a bad song by itself, but these should be available for separate listens instead. The same is there with the brilliant “Yes”; another ambient track with very inventive acoustic instrumental arrangements. Tied to this track is a hidden track called “Chinese Sleep Chant”, which is not bad but doesn’t add a thing to “Yes”.

Next is “Viva la Vida”. Need I say more? A four-chord quick-hit that stormed the charts all around the world and marked the band once more on the map. After the very intimate “Yes” it’s quite refreshing to hear the song kick off, but the true beauty of the track has been taken by the local radio. And of course it’s always fun to know the vocal melody of the song is mysteriously similar to Joe Satriani’s “If I Could Fly”. Sorry, I just couldn’t leave that out of my review. “Violet Hill”, the album’s first single, takes this record into a gentler direction, which is followed as well by “Strawberry Swing” and the dreamy “Death and All His Friends”. These last three tracks I mostly listen to as one, because they all carry on the atmosphere created by “Violet Hill” as it’s quite gentle but still holds power. The lyrics are also quite interesting here.

Now, where does this album go wrong? Although I think this is Coldplay’s finest album to date, an album like X&Y seems a lot more solid. Maybe that’s because this album wasn’t really finished yet? Later in 2008, the band released the Prospekt’s March EP, containing some songs that weren’t finished when the album had to be released. I daresay if some of those tracks would feature on Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends, this album would be even better. But for now, it’s just looking forward to their fifth full-length, due for release sometime next year. This album is essential to every fan of Coldplay or modern pop-music.

Strongest tracks: “Lovers in Japan” and “Yes”.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Queensrÿche - Hear In The Now Frontier (1997)

1. Sign of the Times
2. Cuckoo's Nest
3. Get A Life
4. The Voice Inside
5. Some People Fly
6. Saved
7. You
8. Hero
9. Miles Away
10. Reach
11. All I Want
12. Hit the Black
13. Anytime/Anywhere
14. sp00l

A Sign of the Times – 9/10

Just like a lot of 80s bands that entered the 90s, Queensrÿche felt it was no longer the time for their kind of music. Haven’t we been here before? Yes we have. A lot of bands made albums in the 90s that are not well accepted by the fans, like Scorpions’ Eye II Eye, Megadeth’s Risk, Dio’s Angry Machines or Iron Maiden’s Virtual XI. Queensrÿche were not much different, oh well perhaps the main difference is Queensrÿche never fully returned to their old status. With 1994’s Promised Land lacking commercial success, these gentlemen seriously considered making music that was more in the picture at the time.

Hence, Hear In The Now Frontier basically contains Queensrÿche’s interpretation of alternative rock and grunge. They reinvented their entire sound as a band and redeveloped their formula of songwriting. If it wasn’t for Geoff Tate’s trademark wailing vocals, you would never have recognized the band. Gone is the colour palette with which they painted classic, colourful releases like Rage For Order, Operation: Mindcrime and Promised Land. In return, the album contains down-to-earth straightforward songs with a very intimate production. Everything is close to the listener. Straightforward and heavy guitar riffs with relaxing and mostly groovy drum rhythms are the main focus on this record, with the necessary catchy vocal melodies on top. The band focuses a lot more on the feel of the songs, rather than the instrumental performances. We still have the great guitar leads by Chris DeGarmo and Michael Wilton to make this stand out from the other alternative albums and the star on this album really is drummer Scott Rockenfield who once again proves to be an amazing drummer and handles these grooves just as well as he handled the metal material on previous releases. Really, this band makes a change too huge for most fans to grasp. It’s not really a surprise that therefore this album is not quite popular. Nevertheless, once you get the feel of it, you will know it’s outstanding.

The album begins very direct with lead single “Sign of the Times”; a catchy and quick introduction to the new Rÿche with the catchy chorus and straightforward-sounding guitars. Most naysayers of this record will say this song is the one to get, but it’s not more than an introduction as it’s not getting as intense as later songs. “Cuckoo’s Nest” begins quite dry and doesn’t really suit as a second track, but nevertheless has a nice groove. The real thing begins with “Get A Life”. Though lyrically it’s a true failure, the song itself really kicks in with a heavy riff and driving rhythm. This is where the album truly starts. “The Voice Inside” and “Some People Fly” are two tracks that actually sound like Queensrÿche but are still unmistakably on this album; two little highlights though. With “Saved” we hear another song like “Get A Life”, but this time a little less aggressive. “You” is one of my favorites, containing a bit of an industrial rhythm and the best guitar riff. We get some rest on the ballad “Hero”, before we hear a very dry and direct intro to “Miles Away”. The dryness of a lot of songs is actually very much in favour of the intimate ambience. The track contains one of the finest choruses on the record. It's time to kick some true ass again with the heavy and groovy “Reach”, before we get to hear Chris DeGarmo sing on the power ballad “All I Want”. “Hit the Black” and “Anytime Anywhere” are more of those heavy, groovy tracks, which in the end are the best ones on this record. “sp00l” concludes the record in a classic Queensrÿche vibe like we heard on Promised Land. Its lyrics are critical towards modern day society, like we hear a lot from the band.

In the end, Hear In The Now Frontier is far from a bad album. It’s just a little hard to accept this change if you were expecting the progressive metal from the previous albums. Once you are open for Queensrÿche’s ‘obscure’ period, this record would be a good start; it’s easily the one that bears the most resemblance to the classic Rÿche sound at some tracks, possibly due to the presence of guitarist Chris DeGarmo, who called it quits after this record. This album is highly recommended to those that liked what they just read.

Highlights: “The Voice Inside”, “You”, “Hit the Black” and “sp00l”.