Five-Minute Record Reviews: Lady Gaga, Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs, Katey Sagal, and The Killers!


The Killers - Direct Hits

Even the greatest bands take a few albums to find their identity and put all the pieces together, so it was with great joy that we embraced the Killers, who arrived fully formed on their masterful debut album Hot Fuss.  Whether you like the song or not, hearing "Somebody Told Me" on the radio back in 2004 was like being given pure oxygen, as it put the final nail in the knuckledragger rock coffin and heralded in a new slew of bands that included The Bravery and Franz Ferdinand.

Sadly, the band has since rapidly devolved into just another faceless modern-day new wave band trying to keep up with the Joneses, if you will.  This point is only further proven by how quickly their first "best of" collection peters out after the first few tracks, from their debut album, of course.

See, the band aren't being themselves anymore and have been playing by the rules ever since they joined the rock elite, right down to including two obligatory new songs on this hits package, just like everybody else does.

So, how are those two new songs, you ask?  "Shot In The Dark" sounds like a song you'd find on a cassette version of the soundtrack to "Iron Eagle 2".  "Just Another Girl" shows Brandon Flowers is not yet finished channeling Bruce Springsteen.  The song itself is reminiscent of A-ha's "Analogue", which is a better tune, hands down.

While we'll always have the greatness of Hot Fuss, it didn't have to be this way.  After all, the Killers exploded onto the scene by being different and offering an alternative to, well, everything else.  Thus, their transformation into "just another band" is one we can't bear to watch.

Direct Hits is the sound of a band's once boundless potential replaced by uninspired mediocrity.


Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs - Under The Covers, Vol 3

As much as we adore the music of the '80s, it's kind of weird hearing such songs covered by two artists whose greatest success also came during said decade.  While Matthew Sweet may not have set the charts afire the way his partner-in-crime, Susanna Hoffs, did as a member of the Bangles, one gets the feeling the tracks gathered here were more his doing.  As much as love the song, does anybody really thing Hoffs came into the studio one day and suggested "Our Lips Are Sealed"?

As much as we adore Sweet and Hoffs, their continued partnership seems like more of a payday than two pals covering their favorite tunes and the by-the-numbers performances of "Free Fallin'" and "They Don't Know" (made famous by Tracey Ullman), among others, don't exactly inspire repeated listens.  That's not to say that there aren't great moments, like Hoffs' superb vocal turn on "More Than This" (Roxy Music) and "Trouble" (Lyndsay Buckingham), where she sounds a helluva lot more at home here than she does singing Go-Go's tunes.

Like most covers collections, its a mixed bag for listeners, but everyone will find one or two things to like here.


Katey Sagal - Covered

For those who didn't get enough of "Free Fallin'" on Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs' Under The Covers, Vol 3, Sons Of Anarchy matriarch Katey Sagal proves there's nothing she can't do by ambitiously reworking the song into something altogether new while still staying true to the original.

Just as impeccable as her vocal performances throughout the album is her choice of material, ranging from Steve Earle's heartbreaking "Goodbye", which she performs with Jackson Browne, to Gillian Welch's "Orphan Girl" and Ryan Adams' "I Love You But I Don't Know What To Say", all sung with more conviction and heart than anything on the new Lady Gaga record, just sayin'.


Lady Gaga - ARTPOP

Wow, this is the album to put in the time capsule for 2013.  How better to show future generations the creativity vacuum that enveloped popular music and the desperation of our popular artists to remain relevant at a time where intelligence, subtlety, and song craft are openly mocked by the artists themselves.

There is no song here that isn't trying to be something its not (good) and the umpteen producers gathered to shine this turd sandwich throw every bell and whistle at these songs in hopes of creating the next "Macarena". Sadly, they succeed only in making Lady Gaga a bit player in her own star vehicle.

A complete musical travesty on every level.

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