Five-Minute Record Reviews: Punk Goes '90s, Mike Oldfield, Hank Williams III and Kaiser Chiefs!


Kaiser Chiefs - Education, Education, Edcuation, and War

Hard to believe it's been six years since the Chiefs last graced us with new music.  On this, their third full-length, the Leeds five-piece chose to record with Ben H. Allen III (best known for playing bass/guitar on Gnarls Barkley's St Elsewhere in addition to producing the last two Deerhunter albums and Animal Collective's Halcyon Digest) at his Atlanta studio.

It's an odd thing, this album, which sounds like the work of two bands at war with one another.  On album-opener "The Factory Gates", "Misery Company", and "Ruffians On Parade", you have the harder, more bombastic stadium band aiming for the rafters while a quieter, more introspective troupe contributes "Coming Home" and "Meanwhile Up In heaven" before quitting to join the winning side.  The rest of the album is a late-era Blur-meets-The Killers rock tapestry.  Great if you like that sort of thing, which we do.


Hank Williams III - Ramblin' Man

For anyone who knows his back-story, Hank III is a punk rock drummer who it seems to have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the Hank Williams name.  As you can probably imagine, it tends to make folks expect certain things from a musician.  Williams has, at times, given them just enough of what they want to get them in the door, at which point he introduces him to his punk band, Assjack and proceeds to blow their heads clean off.

Ramblin' Man is the second Hank 3 album that Curb Records has issued without any direct involvement with the artist himself.  Gathered here are two tunes cut with the Melvins, as well as a rock-solid reading of Peter LaFarge's "Marijuana Blues" that, itself, is worth the entire price of admission.


Mike Oldfield - Man On The Rocks (Deluxe Edition)

What does it say that this mark's Oldfield's 25th album, yet the only thing he's known for is the first few seconds of "Tubular Bells" that was used in the movie "The Exorcist"?  While the success of the song (and the album) was monumental and groundbreaking, the Mike Oldfield of 2014 is a very different animal and Man On The Rocks finds him sounding downright conventional.  If one were to play it and tell you it was the new James Blunt album, how would you know the difference?

Having said this, it's immensely sad that an album this beautiful will go unnoticed by so many folks who would otherwise enjoy it.  Such is the curse of folks only wanting one thing from you.  Those who investigate will be treated to the vocals of Luke Skinner, who doesn't just sing Oldfield's songs, but inhabits the defiant character behind such anthemic fare as the six-minute title cut (still short by Oldfield standards).  The deluxe edition features three versions of the album; the original studio version, an instrumental version, and the demo version.  Listen and you'll walk away all albums were released this way.


Various Artists - Punk Goes '90s, Volume 2

While the idea of current bands doing versions of the '90s hit they grew up on is not the most original idea to come down the pike, the long-awaited sequel to the successful Fearless Records comp is more than just a collection of mall punks playing covers as fast as they can.

Thankfully, there's a lot more to it than that.  While the versions gathered here don't stray so far from the original as to alienate anyone, the bands each manage to put their own stamp on things.  Yellowcard, for example, stays faithful to the Smashing Pumpkins' "Today" without merely retracing the same musical steps.

Having said that, if your friends catch you bobbing your head to Chunk! No, Captain Chunk!'s inspired cover of Smash Mouth's "All Star", you will be openly mocked, so do so at your own risk.

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