Jane’s Addiction “Nothing’s Shocking” Review

downloadcooltext131529618670615What a way to go. When I first listened to Jane’s Addiction, I was eleven. I knew so little about the world, I am surprised my head didn’t explode the moment my fish died and I realized it was never coming back. I heard Jane Says on the radio, an acoustic little rendition of what seemed to sound like a classic country/folk song. My mother agreed and bought Nothing’s Shocking. To this day, I still find it odd that she thought it was a nice acoustic rock record despite having two naked girls on the cover with their hair on fire.

Regardless, Jane’s Addiction sounded as if from another planet. Up the Beach sounded evil- sinister- something booming from my twelve-inch boombox like from the pits of another planet. Had a Dad contained this eerie guitarwork and this raspy growl from frontman Perry Farrell that sounded otherworldly.

The one-two-three punch of that song preceded by Ocean Size and Up the Beach has always stuck in my mind. And though I now realize that Jane’s Addiction are quite tame in the whole scheme of things, these early memories of being chilled by music still stuck to me strong. So it is difficult to be put in a position of taking a critical look at an album that made such a strong impression on my past. It is like reviewing Child’s Play. It scared the shit out of me when I was nine, but it’s just a stupidly stupid movie.

I am not going to admit that Nothing’s Shocking, the group’s grand big middle-finger to the world, is stupid. It’s actually brilliant. I still believe it helped give 90′s grunge an in-road to mainstream success, and Jane’s Addiction are not respected enough by providing the outlet for Nirvana and Soundgarden to craft their careers.

Some songs hold up incredibly well. Take Ted…Just Admit It for example. It’s a druggie-infused spiral down the mind of a crazed psychotic. It’s also a blast to listen to. Idiots Rule has this big energy to it that sounds more like Sly and the Family Stone than anything grunge-like, and it always remained an intriguing spot to sit back and just enjoy the sounds.

Some songs are marred by a drooling slowness that destroys the pacing of the record, notably the sour Summertime Rolls which needed to be discluded from any future pressings. By the time Pigs in Zen comes around, most have lost any attention. Mountain Song has that huge bass lick that is just incredible, and it makes the song. There is a reason it remains a fan favorite aside from its overt popularity.

Nothing’s Shocking stands the test of time, but barely. It has enough ideas which were a breath of fresh air at the time. They were the ugly stepbrothers to the asshole older brother Guns N Roses. They are also vastly superior, but that is another story. Jane’s Addiction always carved their own path, and it made for a very sporadic trajectory. But their debut is a great example of great in memory, but upon revisitation, you can poke quite a few holes in the stagnant dated nature of the aesthetic.

Jimmy Eat World ‘Clarity’ Review

download8It is often quite interesting to look into an hourglass of a band in the past, and wonder where their heads were to have created such a collection of songs. Jimmy Eat World just came off their sophomore album which made a tiny pretty damn inconsequential splash in the music world. It was a big step up from their pretty much unknown debut self-titled album which is out of print and rather mediocre for what it is. So Jimmy Eat World, in this tough musical world, was at it a third time. In some ways, this was their last hurrah. If it failed, they may linger in obscurity for a while longer (or just break up and become one of those critically acclaimed though never successful bands). So a bigger studio budget comes along, as an act of good faith, and Clarity surfaces from the rubble.

In hindsight, Clarity is almost purely emo rock. It may not have been the desire, but there are clear-cut influences from The Get Up Kids, Saves the Day, and the Promise Ring. The group fit right into that mold, nicely crafted soft-rock with a jagged edge. The clear undeniable winner is, dare I say objectively, Lucky Denver Mint. It’s soaring chorus shines and gleams and the rhythmic pulsing of the drums makes it hypnotic, alongside the soft-mannered vocal approach of front man Jim Atkins. It’s a splendid success. The title track, Clarity, is also gorgeous in its own merit, and worthy of a mention.

Unfortunately, beyond this, the album floats by on some contemporary and immediate peers styles. There is some Get Up Kids frenzy in Your New Aesthetic. There are some sprawling naturalistic and moody tones in Just Watch the Fireworks pulled right from the pen of the Promise Ring. Blisteris an upbeat number, unfortunately directly correlated to Jawbreaker’s entire career.

Perhaps this is a bit unfair. Every band has SOME kind of musical influences, unless they were locked in a room and forced to learn an instrument without any interaction. But Jimmy Eat World never quite come into their own, and though Clarity is a competent record featuring a variety of emo-tinged hooks, it does nothing to differentiate itself in the whole scheme of things. The group are grade-A pop masters, as they prove later on in their career as they continue to grow into their own (and crafting a series of some of the best albums in modern pop). Though for now, in 1999, the still young group tries to find its footing but pulling from a grab bag of previous efforts and trying to make something of it.

T.I. ‘Paperwork’ Review

T.I._-_Paperwork_(Official_Album_Cover)7T.I. has a flow that is like a soft blanket, its smoothness intoxicating and dream-like, as soft and fluid as warm butter on toast. T.I. has had a pretty spotty critical period leading up to his latest release,Paperwork. The album appears as a sort of spiritual successor to his most popular record, Paper Trail, and he unabashedly explores the entire echelon of pop-hop, from the gritty ‘street legend’ angle that has popularized TIP in his earliest years to his pop persona. T.I. proves he has clout. He brings in pop-rap master Pharrell to executive produce the record, and he has enough self-awareness to know that Iggy Azalea on the lead track can only broaden his pop geared horizons. Unfortunately, the song is ridiculously dumb, which isn’t really a surprise.

And that is the masterwork of T.I. on this release. He manages to be both street and bubblegum pop on his latest album, like a Frankensteinian copulation of Michael Jackson, the Game, Britney Spears, and Dr. Dre. He has this ability to appease hip-hop heads while topping charts, a sort of much more talented but much less respected version of Jay Z. I do not believe this is deserved. T.I. has a grandiose flow that can weave from massively powerful to subtly reflective from one song to the next. Through that, he always manages to impress.

Speaking of being impressed, I have rarely been so by the features on T.I.’s material, and this record is really no different. A lot of unknowns come on, and though they hold their own with some memorable bars, their voice is drowned out in the high production and the subsequent rapping acrobatics of T.I. He comes with his buttery smooth flow and absolutely decimates the track, like his ego-driven bars on G’Shit or his aggressive angry tone over the sinister sounding drum-based Jet Fuel. But it is Boozie Badazz that takes it too far. He sounds like a Birdman parody, accentuating too much egotistical bombast without the credibility or the lyrical fun to back it up. Regardless, it is this song that seems closest to his work on King. 

T.I. strikes out painfully when he slows things down, such as the quiet reflective ballad, Stay. It comes across as a little insincere given that T.I. is all about how awesome he is and how much he bests this industry. Even when he got introspective on previous albums, such as his demon shedding material from Paper Trail that had him admitting faults, he still noted he had more money than you. This is where T.I. is at his best. The ego maniacal side is fun, thrilling, adventurous, and we envy that. When he admits faults, he backs them up with authority. I fucked up, but don’t judge me- what about you, son?

This is why his ballads don’t work, and especially here. The album falls apart in its backhalf, where T.I.’s sugarey flow is disrupted by some mind-numbing hooks from the likes of Victoria Monet and Usher, making At Ya Own Risk a doldrum mining R&B junker. These chorus’ kill the pacing of the song, and T.I leans into that with this slow muddy style that sounds like him mumbling incoherently.

The biggest surprise from the record comes from the Skyler Grey feature and the track New National Anthem. It is a firey track of huge bombast and pitch-perfect production. I have seen very things improved by the presence of Skyler Gray. Who would have thought she was capable of not ruining something with her larger-than-life forced whine of a voice?

The bottom line is that T.I. has one of the tightest and best catalogs of music in modern hip-hop. From Urban Legend on, the man has challenged his own sound, bested the competition, and managed to navigate this industry like a brick through a window. Though none of his album’s are widely considered classic, the man has this energy and the talent to back up all his bombast. Paperwork tries a lot while still keeping everything plugged into the world of pop-rap. When other rappers of less skill would fall flat this far in, T.I.’s web of attraction fills in any holes. In essence, everything he does is good, yet not necessarily great, and the final product has no faults. But he lackssomething, yet difficult to pinpoint the subtle inferiority of his career.