Album Review: The Queen Is Dead by the Smiths

British music during the mid-1980s was quite synth-heavy as new wave was the genre that defined the decade. However, a backlash against this style of music would occur which can be seen in bands like the Smiths. The Smiths came out of Manchester in the mid-1980s and released four pretty popular albums, including The Queen Is Dead, their best album in my opinion.

The album cover of The Queen Is Dead

The Queen Is Dead can simply be described as an indie or alternative rock album with its sound being a fusion of the rock music of the 1960s and contemporary post-punk music. It features Morrissey’s melancholic lyrics paired with his unique voice and Johnny Mar’s compositions. Many of the songs are fairly sad as demonstrated by “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out”.

“There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” is a beautiful song about a man by his lover’s (or soon to be lover’s) side. The man wishes to stay by her side forever and even die beside her. “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” is the Smiths’ signature song and one of my personal favorite songs of all time. With its synthesized strings, Morrissey’s voice, and Mar’s guitar, the song is just absolutely beautiful.

It would only be around a year later when the Smiths would break up. They would release another album not long after their breakup, but it’s not nearly as good as The Queen Is Dead in my opinion. The Queen Is Dead is a 10/10 album and you have to check it out!

Extended Play (EP) Review: Jar of Flies by Alice in Chains

Thanks to the unexpected success of Nirvana’s Nevermind, alternative rock (especially grunge from Seattle) became one of America’s most popular genres of music during the 1990s. Many bands saw their heyday during this period, including Seattle’s Alice in Chains (AIC). They were an extremely successful band, but had a variety of internal issues such as lead singer Layne Staley’s heroin addiction. After their 1993 world tour, the band found themselves homeless and then moved into the London Bridge Studio in Seattle where they lived and recorded their 1994 extended play (EP) Jar of Flies.

The cover of Jar of Flies

Unlike the majority of their work, Jar of Flies heavily features acoustic guitars, primarily out of the band’s desire to relax and make music. It still features electric guitars and has elements of grunge. Out of all of the songs on the EP, “Nutshell” has to be my favorite.

“Nutshell” heavily features acoustic guitars and, unlike a good chunk of their songs, doesn’t feature major vocal harmonies from guitarist Jerry Cantrell. Instead, Layne Staley sings his heart out on this gut-wrenching piece. This has to be AIC’s saddest song which has only become more depressing with the 2002 overdose of Staley. The song is now dedicated to him.

Jar of Flies was the first and only EP to top the Billboard 200. It was also the first AIC release to do so and deservingly. All the songs on the EP are amazing and are worth your time. I give it a 9/10. Check it out when you have the chance.

Album Review: Nevermind by Nirvana

During the 1990s, alternative rock (especially Seattle’s grunge scene) exploded to the forefront of mainstream culture. At the head of this explosion was Nirvana’s sophomore album, Nevermind. Released in 1991, it unexpectedly became a massive album that would go on to define the 90s.

The album cover of Nevermind

Nevermind is the quintessential grunge, the sort of hard, alternative rock that came out of Seattle, album. It primarily features harder-edged songs such as the iconic “Smells Like Teen Spirit” that make good use of loud-quiet-loud dynamics, something Nirvana picked up on from the Pixies, another alternative rock band. My personal favorite songs off of the album have to be “In Bloom.”

“In Bloom” starts off with an explosion of sound but then quiets down to the point where Kurt Cobain is singing a tad bit above a whisper. The song becomes loud once again, as it goes with a large number of Nirvana songs. While this song is one of the band’s most popular songs, it makes fun of the sort of people who sing Nirvana songs but don’t understand their meaning.

When Nevermind was originally released, it was not expected to become the decade-defining hit it become. Nevertheless, it did. Nevermind is a classic and for good reason. I give it a 10/10. You have to check it out!

Nevermind by Nirvana is available to check out from the Mission Viejo Library.

Album Review: Document by R.E.M.

The popular music of the 1980s (new wave) is notable for placing a hefty focus on synthesizers. However, many groups wouldn’t follow new wave’s format, choosing to play jangly guitar rock. The most notable of these groups, at least in the United States, was R.E.M. R.E.M. was very mainstream in the 1990s but was primarily relegated to college campuses during the 1980s, at least until they released their breakthrough album Document in 1987.

The album cover of Document

Document is filled with fun and serious jangly alternative rock songs. It’s very guitar heavy and the guitars are heavier than the guitars on R.E.M.’s previous releases. The album also has quite a few hits, such as “The One I Love” and “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)”.

“The One I Love” may seem like a simple love song, but is actually much darker in nature, as seen in the line “A simple prop to occupy my time.” Either way, radio stations helped push this song to number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100, R.E.M.’s first top ten hit. “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” is about just what it sounds like, the end of the world. It’s a great, fast song, one of my favorites from R.E.M. Funnily enough, streams and downloads of the song greatly increased with the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic, a good thing in light of bad circumstances.

After Document, R.E.M. became massive and would reach an untouchable position in the 1990s, becoming an American institution. We can attribute this to Document’s success. I give it a 9/10 as it’s definitely worth your time. Give it a go when you have the chance. You won’t regret it!

Album Review: The Stone Roses’ Self-Titled Album

Many people today are familiar with the Smiths, one of the most acclaimed and unique bands of their time. They foreshadowed the Britpop bands of the 90s like Blur, Oasis, Pulp, and Suede, just to name a few. What many today are unaware of is the Madchester movement that happened between these two events. The largest band from this movement was the Stone Roses whose self-titled album is a masterwork of the genre.

The album cover of The Stone Roses

The Stone Roses is a psychedelic, rocking, yet danceable piece of music. There are trippy effects and fast tempos in this album. My favorite songs from the band’s debut album are easily “I Wanna Be Adored” and “She Bangs the Drums”.

“I Wanna Be Adored” starts off with a trippy sound collage which leads into Mani’s bass part. The song itself is very simple with the lyrics just being “I don’t need to sell my soul/He’s already in me/I wanna be adored” repeated throughout the song. “She Bangs the Drum” starts off with a danceable drum and bass part which serves its purpose well. The guitar and vocals are incredible too with Ian Brown’s fusion of Morrisey and Robert Smith’s vocal styles.

I put off listening to this album for quite some time but I’m glad I was able to listen to it. It has to be one of the best (and most influential) albums of the 80s. I give it a 9.25/10 with my only complaint being that the intros and outros can be a tad bit too long. Give it a go; it will surprise you!

Album Review: Daydream Nation by Sonic Youth

In the 1980s, music was quite commercialized and accessible in addition to being very synth heavy. However, a thriving underground scene would emerge in places like New York City, giving us the Sonic Youth band. Sonic Youth started out as a highly experimental “no wave” band but would soon transition into making more “normal” alternative music after releasing their first two albums. After two new albums, they’d reach perfection with their fifth album, Daydream Nation.

The album cover of Daydream Nation

Daydream Nation can be described as one of the premier alternative rock albums of its time. It’s very noisy, features decently long instrumental introductions, and has unorthodoxly tuned guitars. Daydream Nation is also on the longer side with a run time of around one hour and 10 minutes. The best song on the album is easily its opener, “Teen Age Riot”.

Like nearly all the songs on the album, “Teen Age Riot” starts off with a layback, minute-plus-long instrumental introduction. We then get a very fast, fun piece of music. Thurston Moore’s guitar part is very cool. While his vocals are somewhat deadpan and spoken, I feel like that really helps to make the song.

Daydream Nation has gone down in history as one of the best alternative rock albums of the 1980s as well as one of the best albums ever made. This album is easily a 10/10 with all of the songs being great, although the album isn’t for everyone. It’s 100% worth a listen though!

Album Review: Slowdive’s Self-Titled Album

Out of all the bands that came out of the UK’s shoegaze scene of the 1990s, Slowdive has to be my personal favorite. I decided to look at their self-titled album for this review. Released in 2017, Slowdive is on par with the famed Souvlaki with it having all the sounds a modern shoegaze album should have.

The album cover of Slowdive

Like Souvlaki, Slowdive is a shoegaze album. It features beautiful, ethereal vocals from Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell, two of the band’s founders. The guitars on the album have been heavily distorted and altered through the use of effect pedals. My favorite song from the album has to be “Sugar for the Pill”.

“Sugar for the Pill” starts out with a touching guitar part drenched with reverb. The bass line is very cool as well. While the vocals do show that Neil Halstead’s voice has aged since the 1990s, his voice is still able to touch the heart. It is less noisy than “Star Roving”, my second favorite song from Slowdive, yet that makes it more beautiful in my opinion.

Slowdive is a great album for those who want to get into shoegaze, especially modern shoegaze as its sounds are more updated than the ones in Slowdive’s works from the 1990s. I rate this album a 9/10. Please check it out when you get a chance. It’ll make your day

Album Review: Adore by The Smashing Pumpkins

The Smashing Pumpkins can be described as one of my favorite bands with their first three albums not having a single bad song on them (in my opinion). Naturally, I decided to check out Adore and was surprised by its content and craft.

The album cover of Adore

In the 90s, were one of the world’s largest bands. Riding off of the success of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, they had achieved their high position. When they released Adore in 1998, listeners were divided. Many were expecting a rock-oriented album; instead, they got a variety of electronic, piano-driven, and acoustic songs, quite a shakeup from their previous album.

Even though I knew that Adore would be a different listen than their other albums, the Smashing Pumpkins 4th album still took me by surprise. The songs on the album were unlike anything we had seen from them, with the sole exception being “1979” off their previous album. The song “Perfect” really shows this change.

“Perfect” has a heavy focus on synths as opposed to guitar. Additionally, a drum machine is present in the song, a change that can be partially attributed to the group firing their drummer after the release of Mellon Collie. Either way, the changes are positive, culminating in a great synth-pop song.

While this is, in my opinion, my least favorite Smashing Pumpkins album from the 90s, it is still a good album in its own right. I give it an 8.25/10. Go give it a go; it’s worth a listen.