What the F*** Is Wrong with You?: A Collaborative Series

As Jeopardy of Contentment begins...again, Matt and I had a brief conversation about how to go through with restarting the blog. Since we can't dedicate the same amount of time to posts as we did in the past (Matt can't and I didn't in the first place), we thought it might be fun to kick-start 2016 with collaborative posts.

The first collaboration we'll take a shot at is what I am calling What the F*** is Wrong with You? This idea popped up the other day when I realized that while I listen to music almost all day at work, I don't really absorb it, and I worry how many great moments I might be missing out on. The title comes from the reaction you have when someone you know has not listened to an album you feel is crucial to their listening experience, and they are therefore an idiot.

1. Person A has Person B listen to an album Person A deems as being seminal  or important in some capacity to the music landscape. 
2. Person B writes a track-by-track review of the album. They'll grade each song and then throw down a final album grade. Currently this is based on the one listen-through only.
3. Person B will have Person A run through the same experience. 

The rules are pretty open to interpretation. The album needs to meet any of the criteria below:

1. It's an album that has influenced or affected one of us in some personal, emotional or culturally significant manner, 
2. It as impacted the work of others - either contemporaries or future artists, and that influence is generally acknowledged by listeners/critics worldwide. It doesn't need to a huge seller, either, although that's fine, too.
3. The album doesn't  have to be unknown to the listener, as we would like to think that could be a difficult since we surely know a little about a lot out there, and the listener could even have listened to the album sometime before. 
4. It can't  be something the listener has ever had on heavy rotation or has a strong sense of the individual songs on the album- the album may exist in their world but it's more of haze than something concrete. So, if Matt suggested Springsteen's Born to Run (that's the title  right?), that would qualify for me. However, Tame Impala's Lonerism, an album we can all agree is better than Currents, would not, since I have listened to it semi-regularly over the last three years.

So, first album!

The Artist: The Cure
The Album: Disintegration
The Listener: Chris
The Presenter: Matt

Track 1: Plainsong

I like the wind chime/keyboard/guitar at the beginning- has kind of a Chariots  of Fire to the introduction, and it's a pretty fade-in with all those melding together. I also like opening tracks that sound like opening tracks- it should be a rule that all Track 1s have some sort of instrumental lead in, ideally over 30 seconds, and repetitive/building in nature. This one is the entire song, so that's probably already a win. When the vocals started quietly in the back, I figured it was leading into actual verses, but I liked how they faded away.  Grade: B+

Track 2: Pictures of You

Yeah, I knew this one a bit. It makes me think of a prom dance at a school I didn't attend, with lots of silvery glitter and sparkles. I always dug Porl Thompson's guitar tone- you always knew it was a Cure song, or maybe a Smiths? Definitely goes on about 2 minutes longer than it needs to, but it's a song that says "Here's a good single! For that prom you mentioned in the second sentence!" The lyrics do read a bit like the stereotype college kid who LOVES Byron. Grade: B

Track 3: Closedown

That's two compound made-up words in the first three tracks, plus long musical intros. The fact I read that Robert Smith went into hallucinogenics during these sessions is not surprising. I dig the musical structure of the songs so far- the bass has a nice groove, and things are soft but present. Given Smith's lyrics so far (in this case, one verse), that's probably a good thing. He's a bit of a sad bastard, and this is generally filler. Grade: C+

Track 4: Lovesong

Really? I honestly didn't think about this when I wrote the last track. Three fake compounds in four tracks? OK. Fine.

This is probably the one song I am most familiar with at the drop of the hat, other than "Friday I'm in Love", which I hate and was the reason I never listened to this band in the first place. Fun fact: A band I was in was going to cover this for the drummer's high school reunion, which then 
called to cancel as we were traveling to Iowa City. Screw you, Iowa. This song has a great hook and I love the solo, Smith's vocals are much more focused on this one. Grade: A

Track 5: Last Dance

Starting to see a pattern here- opening with a guitar lead-in and some synths that builds to a more full-bodied verse. I have a hard time focusing on lyrics that don't really have rhythm to them, or even some sense of rhyme scheme. I can't recall what was sung as well and eventually I tune out the singer and listen to instruments more. This song is pretty, but doesn't stick with me in anyway. Grade: C

Track 6: Lullaby

He likes the "L" words for his song titles, too!

I definitely dig it more when there's something driving the lyrics- some solid idea or story or theme, so the boogeyman/death figure in this gets my attention, and Smith's penchant for the darker lyrics doesn't seem as silly in those scenarios. But, I am imagining Peter Parker in a costume with red and white stripe legs, which is distracting to the story. This song still has a meandering quality to it- same riff repeated over, Smith comes in for a bit, then back to some music for a bit. Then, back to the drugs? Grade: B-

Track 7: Fascination Street

The Cure like kicking it off with the bass line- which is cool and gives the songs some opening, dancey punch. The phaser on the guitar is sweet since I loved the phaser when I played, so props to Porl again.I do think you're starting to see a lot of repetition in how these songs are put together, so there's a little bit of a bleed-together between the tracks. But again, Smith seems to have a real visual idea in his mind when we wrote the lyrics, so this stands out quite a bit. Also, a surprise! After he sings the first verse and chorus and it cuts to the instrumental again, he comes back and sings some more! Grade: B+

Track 8: Prayers for Rain

Smith seems more like a poet than a songwriter. I get an idea that he writes music to fit around what he's written in his notebook. I continue to lose some focus at times due to the repetition of the music and the randomness of the lyrics and WHEN he comes in with the singing. This would be a bitch to do karaoke to, or maybe it'd be easy to fake- you could come in whenever and no one would notice. That low organ synth is pretty sweet and gives it a nice sweep. Grade: C+

Track 9: The Same Deep Water as You

Now we have a rain theme going on, and water. Kind of reminds me of mid-period Live. Oh man, this is over nine minutes? I can probably tune out for the first two, last three, and still get the whole song. I feel this is about suicide, perhaps by drowning? FYI, I will be pulling up lyrics to read along- that's how bad I am at hearing and absorbing lyrics (regardless of the artist). Also, I totally called my track time prediction! I did like the last minute or so of the outro. I wish that the band would jam out a little harder at times. They definitely seem to hold back, at least on this album. Grade: B

Track 10: Disintegration 

Title track! Boy, I feel like this has gone away a bit, at least for rock bands, Bring it back, ideally as the first track so everyone knows they got the right album. Is it too cheesy now? Like, when movies have characters say the title of the movie in the dialogue? Whew, this is over eight minutes, too. Two songs back-to-back over 16 minutes is tough. Robert need to layoff the 'shrooms, a bit. Is it intentional to take over 90 seconds to start singing- to let the music breathe first?  It is definitely a trait of this album. Smith deals out confessionals- it has to be hard to put this stuff out there if you in any way are sincere about what you're singing about, and I get his appeal for the demographic he's linked too. This one he seems to be throwing a bit more passion into his words. This seems like a closer when playing  live.  Grade: B-

Track 11: Homesick

 The clean guitar really stands out with the piano, and I like the change of pace. Even the drums seems to be more acoustic. I don't think this album was overproduced, but the spare sound is nice. The band certainly has time to jam in those openings. Well, basically the whole song. Smith seems to have wandered into the recording booth towards the end. The "do-dos" are a bit silly. Grade: B-

Track 12: Untitled

If the track has a title, it can't untitled, can it?

It's a pretty sounding tune (as they all have been), although at this point I find myself recognizing a pattern more than anything else. the outro is nice, and fitting to the end of the album, although "Disintegration" may have been a better closer. "I'll never lose this pain, never dream of you again" certainly sums up the album. Grade: B

Overall Grade: B

Disintegration is very pretty and well-made album, but it blends to the background for me, like it should be part of the soundtrack in a relationship movie. Smith at times doesn't seem present in many of the songs and floats in and out at will, which many times serves the song well, but others it feels like he's disappearing and floating away, which may very well be his point. The Cure are a good band that one probably needs to get into at a younger age to form a strong connection to. My weakness as lyric-man probably caused me to miss out on some powerful lines, but Smith writes the way I imagined he would based on his reputation.

Hope you all enjoyed the first in the series, and a great suggestion by Matt. Curious what you all think of Disintegration, especially if it was a album you took in as a teenager, and perhaps how you might view it now.


1 comment:

Unknown said...

Already a fan of "WTF is Wrong With You?"
Great concept. Coming out of the gates hot! Might be a little biased as to 'Disintergration' is my favorite album by The Cure. A band I have adored since the 8th grade. Looking forward to seeing what album Chris comes with. - Dexter