Thursday, May 31, 2012

And so it begins:

Melvins- Houdini (1993): (83%)

Kurt Cobain’s name is sprinkled throughout the credits of Houdini even though King Buzzo said he was more of a screw-up in the studio, who was eventually fired. That got me wondering why it was so funny. Then I had the moment of realization: irony. It too is sprinkled throughout the album, but nothing in comparison to the irony of getting your radio-unfriendly band signed to a prominent label by one of the most influential people in 1992 who happens to be your friend. In the Melvins’ half-hearted attempt to sound commercial-friendly and accessible, they end up making their best record.

Perhaps the lyrics could also be to blame. Because if people are going to listen to a 55-minute album, they should have received some sort of message; something they would have wanted to resound throughout their entire career. Well…it does. The nonsensical lyrics to “Hooch” are typed black and bold on an ironic background to ironic artwork that surrounds the album. They are as follows, “Los ticka toe rest. Might likea sender doe ree. Your make a doll a ray day sender bright like a penelty.” While they kinda, sorta, maybe rhyme, just a little bit, they are otherwise complete gibberish. And you know what else is ironic? In lyriscism, Kurt Cobain and King Buzzo are pretty much the same, except Kurt tried harder and only rarely used gibberish, but they are very alike nonetheless (Note: In Utero did have significant meaning). Lyrics written with such utter nonsense would only be peculiar if the band was doing this now that they were signed with a label to intentionally piss them off. But this is an aspect to the Melvins that has been carried throughout their career. Either way, the finished product must have pissed off somebody as their was little to no promotion for it. I guess mainstream just isn’t ready for the Melvins.

But anyone who can listen with an open mind will recognize it for what it is, and eventually end up liking it. The singing is more or less another noise in the throbbing, pulsating, acidic, viscous oil, pumping, thudding collage that roars through Houdini. This is grunge, but slower and harsher. Kinda like Rum. But Rum with the consistency of pancake batter. woooooo yeah, imagine hearing that coming through your speakers.

To no one who has even heard the Melvins, upon the first minute they’d probably correctly guess that this is sludge metal, or at the very least say, “slow metal.” If someone can handle the sea sickening metal the album scrapes out, then they’re on the golden path to liking Houdini. Okay, maybe the album in comparison to their other works actually does sound commercial, but anybody who can like anything at first taste, would say this was their best work.

Arguably, it is. While the sludge sounds continue for what seems like a while ends up being 3 or 4 minutes, sometimes the sludge sound can bring out some part of you that likes menace. One of those “bad mood” albums. But really though, the Melvins just want us all to bounce along with them as they crank out the noise in a live show. Buzzo also said that he prefers the live album to the studio version, but it doesn’t mean Houdini was doomed to never being liked, it just meant that it is an underdog in an otherwise uncommon genre. The first 4 tracks seem to run on too long, but they are worth listening to so the momentum of the power can lead to a maniacal hell raiser like “Honey Bucket.” Then back down again with one of the most representative sludge songs in its genre. From there on, it’s a roller coaster of uppers and downers until the anticlimactic meltdown of “Spread Eagle Beagle.” A bunch of geeks, one including Kurt Cobain, turned loose on percussion equipment…for ten minutes. Well, I guess if they were going to go out on their first big-label production, they are going to do it on their terms, and no one else’s.

You have to give them props: in their attempt to remain outlandish, yet modest, they created their most likable album. Since its release, it has maintained a cult following that keeps a good amount of fans on hand for a show to this day. Even though Buzzo kind of shrugs it off, maybe he was afraid of it becoming popular in one way or another. No matter how commercial it may seem to the Melvins, the average Top 40 listener back in ’93 who was partial to metal probably would have turned this down. Yet, like I said, anyone who can tolerate an acquired taste album will respect it all the same. Contradictory, I know, but it makes sense in my head. Maybe when my editor reads this, he’ll make me change it. Point being, give it a shot, or two, or three….or four…hell, do the whole thing. It’s good for ya!

Lyrics: 7/10
Meaning: N/A
Length: 8/10
Music: 9/10
Significance: 8/10
Overall Impression: 8/10

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Scale for albums:

If you’ve read some of my reviews by now, you might be thinking, “Well if ya liked it so much, why did ya give it a 75% for? That’s like a C.” No, I don’t grade under the same standards as underpaid school teachers. If you’ll notice at the bottom of each review, I rate the albums based on what I feel are the six categories for truly finding out what it’s worth:

Lyrics: the quality, flow, rhythm
Meaning: does it say anything or try to get us to understand what we as the listeners should heed?
Music: overall quality of the production, programming, playing, and perfection of the performers
Significance: does it stand out in the band’s discography and does it have special accolades from other critics worth noting?
Length: a good album keeps its songs short enough to be liked and long enough to be enjoyed. I also try to figure out if some songs botch the pace in some areas, if it has good continuity
Overall Impression: my overall liking to the album, does it have an important place on my playlist?

I rank each of these categories out of ten. Based on a possible 60, I add up its points, and get its percentage. If I don’t entirely agree with the exact calculation, I’ll grade it on a curve or take some away. Below, I have listed what constitutes each 10 percent range as well as what is considered “Steaming Hot Crap,” “Lukewarm Stool,” or “Just Cold Crap” seeing as though I am the no-nonsense, no-compromise, no-crap critic.

(Steaming Hot Shit!)
100%-90%: Classic
An album that is exceptional in every way; not a flaw, fault, vice, distraction, or nuisance is present in the album, but only once or twice in a moment of a risky and bold move. Every track either ties into the concept as a whole or can be immensely enjoyed in its parts. By my standards, this range constitutes what the perfect album sounds like.

89-80%: Excellent
Exceptional in the given time and place of its release. It could be the representative for the culmination of a band’s discography or just an overall satisfying album with maybe a few hindrances. There will be hardly any filler tracks, if at all.

79-70%: Unique
An enjoyable album with maybe not-so-enjoyable aspects to it. There could be qualities are that are endearing and fun, but somehow not everything is legit. Otherwise, it does have redeemable qualities that tend to outshine the bad areas. Perhaps this is where most albums will fall, but that is not by any means a bad thing.

(Lukewarm Stool)
69-60%: Great
An average, blended, and mixed for radio play style that is good only for looking back on an era in pop culture when that was considered hip. It has good music, lyrics or flow, but it is ultimately weighed down by its own ambition. Not one you’ll be in a hurry to listen to again.

59-50%: Mediocre
A half-hearted, half-assed, haphazard attempt at creating something decent and likable. While their creativity might be in the right place at times, their overall product will just seem taut and tired.

49-40%: Meh
We’re starting to sink into more treacherous waters with this range. The record will just sound monotonous, trite, pompous, yet something about it will hook in unsuspecting ears and make you feel somewhat guilty for liking it.

(Cold Diarrhea)
39-30%: Suck
Disappointing material follows. From track one, it will already feel like it has given up. It will either be lazy, hostile, plastic, pathetic, or just pointless. Good luck finding something to like about this one.

29-20%: Hate
Reasons why used record stores have piles of clearance cds cast aside in rickety makeshift bins. Abandon hope, all ye who subjects him/herself to such decadent filth. Downright unbearable and unnecessary to anyone who comes into contact with an album like this.

19-10%: Detestable
This shit will linger, stench and fester for a painfully long time. No part of it will be endearing and make you believe that nobody cared about this thing while it was still in the womb. An abortion of a record, if you will.

9%-Goose Eggs: Unbearable
No reason for it to exist. And to talk about it further would bring more attention to it and that can’t happen. Don’t be surprised to see me write it off in a statement shorter than this description.  

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Welcome to the No Crap Critic site. Here you can find reviews I have written for both record albums and movies, since I love to analyze and critique both. I have different scales for albums and movies because I don't really believe in subjecting different forms of media to the same scale. For movies I give ratings from 0 to 10 (0 being "absolute crap" and 10 being "steaming hot"), and for records, I grade them on a percentage scale, i.e. 0%- 100%. I will be posting criteria for both scales shortly.

Why do I critique movies and albums? Because both forms of media hold special places in my life. Essentially, I am on a relentless quest to find what I feel is the unanimously perfect album and movie. I am particularly stingy when it comes to praise, but that's to make sure I'm not overhyping an album/movie or undermining it either. I take no grade lightly, that is to say I review the album/movie in question until I feel I have placed an accurate grade for it, to give it exactly what it deserves.

Of course, all critiques are a matter of opinion, so obviously you may or may not agree with the grade I have assigned to it. To each is own, I suppose. The point of this blog is to give you an idea of what critics look for when reviewing, and hopefully to entertain you with quirky and skilled writing. With that said, I welcome you to my blog, and encourage any and all responses from you, the viewer. You can call me an idiot, you can call me a genius, you can say I'm wrong or right, but one thing you aren't allowed to do is post an opinion that is ultimately without support or concrete proof. It's not enough to post a two-word response and expect me to take it seriously.

Sincerely yours in all things music or movie related,