(9 out of 10)
Forget, for a moment, the circumstances that brought The Lost Tapes into existence. Forget the execrable history that most important bands have when it comes to archival releases. Forget, if it’s possible, that Can hasn’t released any new music since 1989’s middling Rite Time. Forget those things and ask yourself: If you could go out and buy a new Can album today, what would you want it to sound like?
(9.5 out of 10)
Over the years, Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake has been reissued on CD seven different times by the same label, so any skepticism regarding whether or not this most recent 3-CD “deluxe edition” by that same label is the ultimate/definitive/perfect/never-to-be-topped version is well-warranted.
When it was first released in 1989, the debut album from Nine Inch Nails seemed a little…weak. This was a time when industrial electronic music — whether the aggressive, post-apocalyptic sounds barreling out of Chicago, the martial sturm und drang of European electronicists, or the mind-twisting assault of Skinny Puppy — was at its most potent and daring, so unabashedly danceable and accessible cuts like “Head Like A Hole” and “Down In It” were received with quite a bit of skepticism from the hardcore trenchcoat-and-eyeliner crowd. Of course, that very accessibility wound up rewarding Trent Reznor quite handsomely; thanks to nonstop touring and relentless promotion, PRETTY HATE MACHINE soon went from “decent debut” to “college hit” to “massive success.” Reznor took that success and followed up the debut with works that were darker, more experimental, and, frankly, much more artistic. Whether due to mild embarrassment on Reznor’s part, or the endless legal wranglings that surrounded it, PRETTY HATE MACHINE has long been treated as a tentative aberration on his way to his later, more important work. Now, though, enough time has passed (or lawsuits settled) that Reznor has finally gotten around to giving PRETTY HATE MACHINE a long-overdue reissue. What’s remarkable here is that it’s clear that Reznor lavished this reissue with tremendous amount of attention; instead of simply remastering the tracks for modern fidelity, Reznor apparently felt the need to subject the entire album to a full-blown remix session. There’s considerably more distortion and ambient noise on these new versions – most notably on “Sanctified” and “Head Like A Hole,” which sound like brand-new songs – and the result will likely be disorienting for those who have spent the last 20 years with the original version. Still, there’s no arguing that this new version is considerably richer in texture than the original release; a full-bodied warmth and weirdness emerges from the tracks that once only yielded thin, dancefloor-ready industrial pop. Whether this was Reznor’s original intent is irrelevant, as PHM2010 – complete with a b-side cover of Queen’s “Get Down Make Love” – acts more as a complement to the original than as a replacement.
First appeared Nov. 22, 2010 at Shockhound.com.
(4 out of 5)
For many classic rock bands, the documents of their formative years are somewhat less than beguiling. Yet while the early catalog of, say, the Beatles and the Stones offer only limited rewards beyond a look at the bands’ influences, it could easily be argued that, when it comes to Pink Floyd, the band hit it out of the park as soon as they got started. Floyd’s early, jangly psychedelia doesn’t, to be sure, have a whole lot to do with the album-side opuses and movie-concept albums of their later career, but from their very first single — 1967’s “Arnold Layne” — the group definitely stood out in a crowded sea of acid-dipped British rockers, mainly due to the sensitive and slightly cracked presence of the band’s primary songwriter and vocalist, Syd Barrett. By the time he died in 2006, the singer had become pop-culture shorthand for “drug casualty,” but his stylistic sway over Pink Floyd’s formative years ensured the group was charting a highly unique course into experimental rock n’ roll. This 18-track compilation — with a third devoted to early Floyd cuts and the rest culled from Barrett’s solo career in the early ‘70s — is a solid primer on Barrett, although casual Pink Floyd fans who are only familiar with Barrett through references on THE WALL and WISH YOU WERE HERE may be somewhat shocked by the stark emotion of cuts like “Dark Globe” and the goofy weirdness of something like “Effervescing Elephant.” More devout fans won’t find many surprises; although the alternate version of “Matilda Mother” is a revelation, new David Gilmour-directed mixes of cuts like “Octopus” may seem somewhat misguided.
First appeared Nov. 9, 2010 at Shockhound.com.
(5 out of 5)
This succinct set is, yes, yet another collection of Elvis Presley’s greatest hits. This has been done over and over again, and while this time it’s in honor of the King’s 75th birthday, there’s still an undeniably icky feeling one gets when contemplating just how many times these folks have dined out on Elvis’ legacy. Last month’s 100-track box set (from which this compilation is derived) at least seemed to have something of a point: delivering a walloping brick of awesome as a way of reminding contemporary audiences just how brilliant Elvis was. But all ickiness aside, ELVIS 75 has its own point to make; while the producers could have just gone in and carved out a chunk of chart-toppers from the aforementioned box set, they’ve instead opted to present a surprisingly well-rounded overview of Elvis’s work. Casual fans are likely unaware of just how much soulful swagger the King was capable of, but listening to him barrel through “Polk Salad Annie” or “Little Sister” – songs that could hardly be called radio regulars – his gutbucket roots show through. Yes, you’ll get “Jailhouse Rock,” “Suspicious Minds,” “Hound Dog” and all the rest; but you’ll also get one of his slinkiest rockers (the Jerry Reed-penned “Guitar Man”), one of his most moving religious numbers (“How Great Thou Art”) and a number of other songs that paint a picture of the man that far too few of today’s listeners are aware of. Calling an Elvis collection essential is the height of obviousness, but ELVIS 75 manages to be both essential and surprising
First appeared Jan. 5, 2010 at Shockhound.com.
(4 out of 5)
MAXINQUAYE was one of the densest and most claustrophobic albums to emerge from the mid-‘90s trip-hop boom. While former collaborators Massive Attack indulged in jazzy undertones and wobbly, dub-inflected soul, Tricky seemed determined to have MAXINQUAYE invert that formula into something altogether heavier. More obviously beholden to hip-hop (covering Public Enemy’s “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos,” for example), but also more willing to subvert street culture into something far more ominous and compelling (turning “Black Steel” into a wah-guitar-driven, rockist assault), the album was endlessly – recklessly, even – experimental. Nestled among the gentle, dope-smoking grooves of his many peers, Tricky’s gruff rhymes, off-kilter samples, and soundclash-style rhythms presented a much more aggressive and subversive take on trip-hop. Even today, in this expanded and remastered 15th anniversary edition, the album blasts out of your speakers, creating a total atmosphere of end-of-days paranoia. Unfortunately, the additional disc of remixes (both contemporary and current) and rough mixes does little to improve upon the album’s initial perfection; although the remastering job adds a bit more power, this expanded edition is best recommended only to die-hard fans of the original classic.
First appeared Dec. 8, 2009 at Shockhound.com.