Motörhead: Entire Studio Discography Review

For close to 3 weeks, I listened to nothing but Motörhead. And I really mean nothing but Motörhead.  I didn’t even intend to write about it, I just wanted to try and listen to every single studio album at first. It became much more than that. I started giving the albums ratings (out of 10 stars). Little by little, I started writing comments on a notepad and realized that I could turn this into a full-on discography review. It was an absorbing experience.I did quite a bit of research and spent hours watching live shows to try to listen to certain albums within the context of their eras. I calculated that I spent nearly 50 hours in total listening to Motörhead albums and watching live shows. I’d often go back and re-listen to albums, and I’d often think to myself ‘Who are you to review Lemmy?!’.

Well, here we are.

Motörhead has been a band that has been with me my whole life, one of my favorites and I wanted to get some perspective on how a band can, year after year, continue to make new albums. Are they all good? How does the sound change (if indeed it does at all)? And how can a band challenge itself for so long? I’d listened to half of the band’s studio albums before, but I wanted to listen to everything and find out. I also wanted to do so in no particular order – I did not want to go chronologically.

I rated the albums out of 10 stars within the context of its own discography: 10 out of 10 being an absolute Motörhead classic/essential listening. Weaker albums are also dealt with in this context: to the band’s credit, a bad Motörhead album is still better than most albums out there. That’s how consistent this discography proved to be.  This is a band that deserves more than to be summed up with typical “All Motörhead albums sound alike” reviews. There are differences through the years, and I hope this article helps to do them justice.

Since the band was started by Lemmy Kilmister, who is the only remaining original member, the group’s longevity should be attributed not just to Lemmy’s obvious talents and perseverance, but (and I only realized this midway through this whole experience) his incredible ability to keep Motörhead a band effort, and not just his own project. Songwriting is usually credited to the entire group, and Lemmy’s dominating bass sound/playing changes drastically when we listen to albums in which, for example, Motörhead has 2 guitarists in the band instead of 1. Lemmy is very good at being in a band, which is not an easy task, especially when the band is able to, time and time again, retain its fast and aggressive fusion of punk, blues, hard rock and metal.

I believe that his ability to remove ego here and consistently make decisions with regards to what is best for the group, musically, shows an incredible amount of integrity.

To the best of my own ability, I’ve checked facts and historical information to be accurate. However, given that this was a one-man job: listening, researching, writing, editing, I may have overlooked certain things. I also wanted the reviews to be kept straight-forward and to the point. Please feel free to leave a comment at the bottom. All comments are subject to my approval, because the internet. I’d love to get your comments, feedback, your own reviews, experiences or memories with the band, if you have ’em! Please note: although I’ve included a bit of history and context, this is not meant to be a history or biography of the band. For this, you should definitely read Lemmy’s autobiography, White Line Fever.

Although I am not reviewing live albums/shows/videos, the Motörhead live experience is as important as the studio work. Any serious fan will want and should listen to No Sleep Till Hammersmith. There is a wealth of live material out there that you should get your hands on. I’ve seen them live 3 times, and looking forward to the next show here in Montreal on September 18!

Here begins what turned out to be a nearly 4000 word review of the band’s discography.

1977– Motörhead 5/10

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Note: The songs for the first album also appear on the album “On Parole” – recorded in 1976 but only released in 1979 after the success of “Overkill”.  The eponymous album and On Parole have similar track listings, but offer different recordings of the songs. For the purpose of this discography I’ve chosen to review it in its eponymous format.

This first LP shows the band is struggling to find its voice and is stylistically all over the place: there’s punk (Vibrator), there’s the classic Motörhead sound (the title song, originally performed with Hawkwind), and a great deal of distorted pub/blues rock. It gets awkward at times (Train Kept A Rollin’), hearing Lemmy seemingly use these songs as practice to find his proper vocal style. As a historical document, it’s an interesting piece of music that basically gives us a rough blueprint of the band. This is far from the band’s best work and is best used as the audio equivalent to an old photo album.

1979 – Overkill 10/10

OverkillI’d listened to Overkill countless times, but listening to the first album in the context of the discography made me appreciate it even more. It’s incredible how the band just came fully formed here and is completely confident.  The contrast in quality and sound is huge (compared to the first record). Side by side, you’d think this is a different band altogether.

This album is pure perfection, and remains one of the most influential rock records ever. As far as heavy music goes, it’s still hard to top this one. Lemmy deserves more credit as a singer: the vocals to Stay Clean are just genius. I mean, hearing him ending lines as if he’s catching his breath is a lesson in true vocal performance that adds urgency in a truly original manner. It’s a little detail that I find astounding every time I listen to it.

Once the title track was first played and Phil Taylor’s double-kick drumbeat started, it opened the floodgates to a new era in heavy rock drumming!

1979 – Bomber 8/10

BomberWhile not the landmark that Overkill or Ace of Spades were, this is a strong album and an essential one in the band’s catalog. I’ve always loved this album, with songs like Dead Men Tell No Tales, Stone Dead Forever and Lawman being my favourites. The 2nd half of the album has a few weaker moments, but the title track closing the album is a true Motörhead classic. It’s even more impressive to think that in the space of 2 years the band came out with so much great material. I saved this one to end my discography listening experience on an assured high note, which it did not fail to do.

1980 – Ace Of Spades 10/10

Ace_of_Spades_Motorhead_album_coverMatches Overkill quality-wise. Incredible guitar playing by Eddie Clarke here. With faster, heavier songs, this one took everything one step further and in my case has often replaced the use of caffeine in the morning.

An essential life experience.

1982 – Iron Fist 8/10

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Make no mistake: this is a classic Motörhead album, and the last with the original lineup. Unfortunately, it has a few songs in the middle which aren’t all that outstanding. This is still one of band’s finest albums, but I can’t say it is quite on par with Ace Of Spades, Bomber & Overkill. The title track, I’m The Doctor, (Don’t Need) Religion – even Remember Me, I’m Gone which was a B-Side, are songs which are part of the very best material the band has ever produced. Unfortunately, tracks like Sex & Outrage, and America are not as consistent or notable. Still, what an incredible run of great albums that just shows no signs of stopping.

1984 – Another Perfect Day 10/10

220px-Motorhead_Another_Perfect_Day_CoverThis isn’t an album that was well-received, nor was it very successful. This period in question is documented as being the low point in the band’s career, but you wouldn’t know it listening to this record. Many may disagree with my assessment here, but I think this album is an essential record, and in my Top 5 Motörhead albums. This is the first and only album featuring Brian Robertson on guitar, following Eddie Clarke’s leave after Iron Fist. Anything you read about this album will not fail to mention that Robertson was incredibly slow at recording his guitar, needed everything note perfect and was fired shortly because he just really didn’t fit in (long story very short). Lemmy still hasn’t talked to him to this day, apparently. But here’s the thing: the guitar work on this album is just amazing, and the overall feel of this album is totally unique in the Motörhead discography because of it. Robertson adds effects to his guitar that may arguably date the album, but I don’t find this is to the detriment of its quality (what helps is the drums and bass retain the same sounds we’ve come to expect, so the guitar work I find just adds personality). The guitar effects are integral to the songs themselves, and I would have a hard time imagining the band playing these songs live without them. The band sounds like they’re on fire here throughout, with some nice extended jams on songs like One Track Mind (which has a really nice Stranglehold-esque vibe to it) and the title track. If you remove the drama that surrounds the making of this album, it’s just a perfect Motörhead record. Amazing.

1986 – Orgasmatron 4/10

220px-OrgasmatronMostly good songs here, but sonically this is a really weird album. There are really awkward gang vocals (and a lot of them!), weird panning on the drums (why, on some songs, the bass drum is panned totally to the left, is one of life’s great mysteries) and the sound of the record actually takes away from the quality of the material. It does not sound like a Motörhead record, and that hurts the album more than anything. Guitarists Wurzel (who would stay until the Overnight Sensation album) and Phil Campbell (still in the band to this day) made their debut here, although I do find they started adding personality to the band’s sound only on the next album.   It appears Motörhead was trying  a different approach to songwriting: Deaf Forever and the title track, for instance, are much slower-than-usual tempos, adding a sense of menace to the sound. It would work, but the production on this album and the mixing keeps distracting you from it. It’s just not an enjoyable listening experience, and this is what I end up taking with me more than anything else. The title track is a true classic though (often covered by Sepultura, too). But asides from that one song, this is the first album in the discography I’ve listened to so far that really sounds dated and uninvolving. It’s too bad, because it really feels like the band was trying to do something quite good with the songs themselves. You know, I’m thinking out loud here, but maybe a remix of this album would work. I’d be curious to hear it mixed differently. Or in mono? Rant is over.

1987 – Rock N Roll 5/10

Rock_'n'_Roll_(Motorhead_album_cover)This is a back to basics return. I’d read reviews that stated this was an abysmal record, but it really isn’t! The band sounds like Motörhead again, and appears having a lot of fun. The songs here are indeed overall disappointing, but the musicianship is strong, and original drummer Phil Taylor is back. It has a few cool moments though: The Wolf starts with a nice drum intro that takes us back to Overkill, while Traitor and Blackheart have Lemmy in a proper pissed-off mood, and the band plays fast and aggressive throughout. Not a great album, but definitely not as bad as I’d heard it was. I’m actually disappointed that the B-Side to Eat The Rich, Just ‘Cos You Got The Power didn’t make the album, because it’s a very good song that would have ended the album with real strength.

1991 – 1916 – 8.5/10

220px-1916_(album_cover)1916 is a rebirth for the band, and is also one of its more experimental ones. Songs like Nightmare, Love Me Forever, and the title track show new depth to Lemmy’s songwriting, and No Voices in the Sky along with One To Sing The Blues are some of the all-time best fist-pumping Motörhead songs. The quality of this album is undeniable and it’s easy to understand why, after its release Lemmy was commissioned to write songs for Ozzy Osbourne’s No More Tears album. One of the most interesting/creative albums of Motörhead’s career, and the band sounds eager to prove itself once again, shoving the competition aside. I think this one might be overlooked, but taking risks here stylistically definitely paid off.

1992 – March ör Die  3/10

220px-March_or_DieThis was the first Motörhead album I’d ever listened to. I was 10 or 11 and bought the cassette, and I have to say I didn’t like the album. To this day, I have a problem with it, but nearly 20 years later I can actually understand why! By this point, Ozzy’s No More Tears album had come out, sold millions, and some of the strongest songs on No More Tears were penned by Lemmy (the whole album is great though). So I can understand why Lemmy would have chosen to record his own take of the song Hellraiser, but I personally will always prefer Ozzy’s take, maybe that’s because I knew Ozzy’s version first. There’s also a cover of Ted Nugent’s Cat Scratch Fever here which is completely useless (I don’t know, I mean this was Motörhead’s first and only major-label album, was this to help break the band further in America? They played it live quite a bit in the early nineties, so maybe they just liked the song, but the cover here doesn’t work for me). The album opener, Stand, is a catchy song with a singalong chorus but in the context of their discography, it’s actually a pretty weak Motörhead track I find. The one real moment of brilliance here is Too Good To Be True, which I think is one of the most beautiful songs the band has ever written. Just like the rest of the album, perhaps Motörhead shows a bit more of a commercial side here (Lemmy arguably sings a bit cleaner on this album…still sounds like Lemmy though), but this song is pure gold. I don’t care, commercial or not, I remember loving that song as a kid and it still reaches me today. There’s a real vulnerability in the lyrics, and while the song completely rocks, it also breaks your heart. Too Good To Be True: listen to the song. March ör Die also has a semi-acoustic single called I Ain’t No Nice Guy (feat. Ozzy and Slash), which is good, but works better when I see Lemmy perform it only with Phil Campbell, fully acoustic (found on the 25 & Alive Boneshaker dvd’s bonus features). March ör Die is, I think, the weakest album in the band’s discography. Did I mention that you should still listen to Too Good To Be True though?

1993 – Bastards 9.5/10

220px-BastardsOne of the essential Motörhead releases. With the exception of the ballad ‘Don’t Let Daddy Kiss Me’, a well-written and thoughtful tune in its own right, this is a classic ass-kicking album, and stands alongside any of their best. I think that the inclusion of drummer Mikkey Dee with this record (still the drummer to this day) helped the band find a more aggressive sound and helped to rightfully put Motörhead back on the map as one of the most important rock ‘n roll bands of all time. I nearly gave it a 10, but I do find that Don’t Let Daddy Kiss Me interrupts the flow of the album a bit, whereas the other ballad here, Lost In The Ozone, continues with the fine songwriting experiments brilliantly displayed on 1916, and is a standout track. This is one of my favorite Motörhead albums, and one of the ones I most frequently revisit. Essential!!!

1995 – Sacrifice 8/10

220px-Sacrifice_(album)This is one that I’ve always linked with the Bastards album: they’re both super aggressive, quality records that (for me) fit hand-in-hand together. Anyone who grew up watching Troma movies in the 90s should already be familiar with the insanely great title track, but the album as a whole is worth your time (especially considering the brief running time). It isn’t as consistent as Bastards, with a few weak moments here and there, but songs like Over Your Shoulder, All Gone To Hell and Out Of The Sun are 5 star songs. Sacrifice is one of the heaviest Motörhead albums of all time. Mikkey Dee’s drumming here deserves lots of love, pushing the band to try out different, more syncopated rhythms .

1996 – Overnight Sensation 6.5/10

220px-Overnight_SensationThis one found the band back as a 3-piece and was an eye-opener for me: It made me look at the last few albums differently due to a small stylistic shift. Gone is the songwriting experimentation and guitars in the front, back with what we now consider the classic Motörhead sound, and the album is much more bass-heavy and rock ‘n roll sounding as a result. It isn’t as aggressive as the previous 2 records, and it isn’t as consistent, but I still thought it was good. Listen To Your Heart has Lemmy essentially playing the rhythm guitar with his bass, which is a really cool idea. Love Can’t Buy You Money has a strong groove and a bass solo that takes us back to Stay Clean. I Don’t Believe A Word (with a surprising return to clean vocals from Lemmy!), Overnight Sensation and Civil War are the standout tracks here. The rest is good if not phenomenal, but this is the band regrouping and focusing on creating music as a 3-piece again after years of having 2 guitars. I’m sure I’d include 3-4 tracks of this album if I made a custom Best Of playlist. But I wouldn’t do that, I’m 16 albums into this discography and realizing that almost every one of them has enough strong points to make it worth a spin. That’s an incredible achievement. The front cover was immediate proof that Joe Petagno was integral to the Motörhead album experience (when I was a kid and saw this album in record stores I remember thinking it was a compilation because Motörhead albums always looked pretty badass!). Joe Petagno. Check him out. Buy a signed print. He’s part of the legacy too (though since the Kiss Of Death album, he has unfortunately resigned from producing work for Motörhead).

 1998 – Snake Bite Love 5/10

220px-Snake_Bite_LoveA return to a heavier sound here does not translate to immediately great songs. I was let down by the album, which I found altogether rather forgettable. Hey, it sounds like Motörhead doing what they do best, so I won’t say it’s a bad album: Lemmy could read the phonebook and I’d still be listening. The track Assassin, a return to the syncopated rhythms of Sacrifice, is a good song but does not match the quality of its predecessor. My favorite songs here were the (slightly) more quiet track Dead And Gone, the excellent Joy Of Labour, and the album closer Better Off Dead. To give you an idea, 2 days after listening to the album I could barely remember any of it, which is a rare occurrence in the Motörhead catalog. Unfortunately, I also did not feel like listening to it again. I was 17 albums into the discography, and went back to hear Inferno again instead!

2000 – We Are Motörhead 8/10

220px-We_Are_MotorheadShort and so very sweet, this one has a familiar feel building on the fast and furious style of Bastards and Sacrifice. The only misstep here is the cover of Sex Pistols’ God Save The Queen. It’s good, but it doesn’t match the quality of the new songs. As this album only has 10 songs and a brief 35 minutes-ish running time, I’d given this one a 9 had it not been for God Save The Queen, because the rest is great. The album ends with what appears to be the band’s 21st century mission statement: the wonderful title track We Are Motörhead, and it feels as if it has found a new sense of purpose for the new millennium (check out the front cover if you need a mission statement). Very fast, very heavy – one of the band’s better latter-day albums, and the song One More Fucking Time is a classy & cool slow burner, with intensely personal lyrics and an awesome guitar solo* served as an outro. This album was new to me, and I ended up actually listening to it a few times in the context of this discography because I liked it so much.

*Let’s take a moment here. I haven’t talked about the greatness of Phil Campbell much. Phil Campbell should be recognized for his incredible guitar playing. His riffs, his solos, his energy, his live presence, the dude is such a talent. I’ve spoken about Mikkey Dee in this discography review, and I also need to mention how incredibly important Phil Campbell’s sound is for this band. Listening to every album, you realize that the band is much more technical (musically) than it gets credit for. In its current lineup, Motörhead is a team of 3 incredible musicians who are also incredible songwriters. Motörhead is Lemmy’s baby, but the band is credited as writing most songs together. And I will dare to say that I think this lineup is the best the band has ever had.

2002 – Hammered 4/10

220px-Hammered_(album)I thought this one sounded very weak. There are a few good songs here, such as the brutally heavy Red Raw, and the very catchy Mine All Mine (my two favorite songs from Hammered). As a whole, this record didn’t keep my interest, and I actually found some of the songs to go on for too long – No Remorse (not a cover of the Metallica song) is a very good song at its core, but does not need to be 5 minutes long. The album ends with a curious spoken-word outro called Serial Killer that ends the album on a downer (though I’ll give bonus points for the album title, and I love how classy the album cover looks).

2004 – Inferno 8/10

220px-Inferno_albumThis was the 11th album I listened to in this discography, and I was so impressed by this one.  30 years later the band can write still an album that sounds insanely loud and inspired! So many standout tracks here : Terminal Show (featuring a guitar solo by Steve Vai), In the Black, Suicide, Down On Me, Killers, and the insanely cool In The Name Of Tragedy… Great songs with awesome hooks! A really consistent album that has a few forgettable moments and one nice surprise:  Whorehouse Blues, a nice acoustic jam letting Lemmy sing the blues – and the band even brings out the harmonica (this anomaly is cheekily addressed in the lyrics: “You know the only thing that’s missing, Is a little mouth harp blues, And you know life’s full of suprises, You know we do that too”. A very good album, and though it isn’t likely to be addressed as a milestone in the band’s career, is way up there with some of the best material it has recorded.

2006 – Kiss Of Death 8.5/10

220px-MotorheadkissofdeathThis band and lineup is relentless! This is a really, really heavy album with so much good stuff. Where to begin? Well, count on Motörhead to have a ballad called God Was Never On Your Side. Kiss Of Death has some of the best, most ferocious material I’ve listened to. This was the last album I put on that was new to me, that I’d never listened to before. And man, I’m gonna keep going back to this one. Sucker, the album opener sets the tone nicely, with Lemmy sounding as pissed off as ever. He sounds even more aggressive at age 60 here! There isn’t a bad song here. Near the end of the album you start to feel like maybe the album could have made even more of an impact if it had been 1-2 songs shorter, but what a minimal complaint that is! This is one of the definitive latter-day albums (though what is latter-day Motörhead? It sounds here like Lemmy truly will never stop – and I just listened to the band’s new single, Thunder and Lightning for the upcoming Bad Magic album – Lemmy is now 69 years old and this thought still appears to be true).

2008 – Motörizer 6/10

220px-Motorizer_coverI wasn’t sold on the first half of the album, but by the end of Motörizer’s last song, The Thousand Names Of God, I realized that Motörizer’s biggest flaw is its track order. Every Motörhead album has its classics, but I’d the issue here is that they just happen to be in the latter half of the album. Despite some routine tracks like One Short Life and the opening track Runaround Man, this one’s well-worth your time. The last 3 songs (Heroes, Time is Right and The Thousand Names Of God) are just epic, English Rose has a very memorable chorus and When The Eagle Screams has a great groove and single-handedly saves the first half of the record from being altogether forgettable.

2010 – The World Is Yöurs 7/10

220px-MotorheadworldisyoursThis one starts out with 3 absolutely killer songs: Born To Lose, I know How To Die, Get Back in Line: awesome. The rest of the album is uneven. Rock ‘n Roll Music is an honest testament to Lemmy’s love of rock ‘n roll, but I didn’t care much for the song despite its good intentions. The middle section here drags a bit, but Brotherhood of Man picks it up quite nicely, with its Orgasmatron-like (the song, not the album) style. Bye Bye Bitch Bye Bye made me realize that in Motörhead’s world, a breakup song is a feel-good song because it means Lemmy reclaims his freedom! (it also made me go back to Too Good To Be True from the March ör Die album, which I find is lyrically so unlike the band’s songs that I wish I could get further insight. I love that song.) This one is worth listening to for its first 3 songs alone, yet at its worst The World Is Yöurs is still extremely entertaining and rockin’. No small feat 20 albums into your career.

2013 – Aftershock  8/10

220px-Motörhead_AftershockAh, the beauty of editing. If this album ended at song number 10, Crying Shame, I’d give it a 9 without a doubt. The first 10 songs are just *awesome*. And with Lost Woman Blues and Dust And Glass, Lemmy’s letting his Blues flag wave, showing that after 35+ years, Motörhead can still surprise you. These are slower, gentler songs that somehow retain the feel and attitude we’ve come to expect from the band. It’s a brilliant album that ends with 4 songs that should have been bonus tracks or B-Sides, and not because they’re not good, but because the rest is so g-r-e-a-t. Like I said, I’d have given this a 9 or maybe even a 9.5 if the review was solely based on the first 10 tracks. It’s inspiring to know that a band can make such quality work 21 (studio) albums into its career, a real testament to its songwriting strength.

If you’ve taken the time to read all of this: Thank you. Doing this for 3 weeks straight was a real challenge!!

Special thanks to Alistair McIntosh.

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Them Blue Midnights’ 20 Best Albums of 2013

A lot of good stuff came out this year, so let me add myself to a seemingly interminable amount of best-of 2013 lists appearing on our information superhighway.

What you’ll see, and you’ve seen in many lists, is the amount of great comeback records this year has produced. From Queens Of The Stone Age to Paul McCartney, there was something in the water this year.

Click on the band name/album title for a worthy youtube track. 

The list, in alphabetical order:

ASG – Blood Drive

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This band sounds like Jane’s Addiction meeting Kyuss, and I got hooked. At once atmospheric and driving, heavy and melodic, this is one of the best hard rock releases of the year.

Babyshambles – Sequel To The Prequel

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This was a breath of fresh air.  Pete Doherty wisely gave much space to his bandmates for the songwriting on this album, which carries none of the missteps of 2007’s darker ‘Shotter’s Nation’. So that was my summer album this year.

Bad Rabbits – American Love

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Now these dudes know how to do it. They remind you of Prince & The NPG without ever sounding nostalgic about it. While the album is a bit overproduced for my taste, I’ll take it: At the foundation is a band that plays their instruments like few bands do now and succulent songs lie underneath some of the synth-heavy moments. Also, check out their amazing cover of Smashing Pumpkins’ 1979

Black Sabbath – 13

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Black Sabbath returns with an album worthy of closing its legendary career, but get it on vinyl if you can: the cd/mp3 versions are over-compressed and miss the organic flow of some of the jams.

Bombino – Nomad

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The Niger-born guitarist employs The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach as a producer and the result is a great jam record with nice touches on the instrumentation. Another definite summer record.

Charles Bradley – Victim Of Love

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The dude’s got soul. Released his first album at the age of 63, this, his second is simply the best soul album of the year, and is even produced like a 60s record: the drums are even channeled in 1-ear/mono! From the hurtin’ in ”Cryin’ In The Chapel” to what sounds like what would happen if James Brown were coked out of his mind writing about the state of the world in ”Confusion”, the guy’s got the sound, but most importantly, he’s got the songs.

Clutch – Earth Rocker

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Clutch returns and rocks your face off with rock. You can’t really ask for more out of life, and this album in particular finds the band more focused and heavy than it has been in years.

Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

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Everything has already been written about this record and I’m sure you’ve already read everything you need to know about except this: At a certain point, I drank beer and started dancing while tipsy in front of my cat while listening to this. I use the word dancing very, very loosely.

David Bowie – The Next Day

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Best album cover of all time or the worst? Better than Heathen? Will he ever tour again? Dunno, don’t care, this is pure Bowie and a very, very consistent album.

Ghost – Infestissumam

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One of my favourite bands of all time already, I think. Get the vinyl, it’s red and it’s real pretty. Check out the video I linked, it’s my contender for best video of the year, actually. It’s KISS if KISS was Mercyful Fate with an evil pope as a frontman and nameless ghouls as, shall we say, sidekicks. If you like your metal and you like a good pop song too, this band will more than do it for you. Show review can be found here.

Imaginary Cities – Fall Of Romance

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I don’t want to repeat myself and re-write an existing post, but this release is ridiculously under the radar and may actually be my favourite album of the year. If you haven’t heard this, please check it out and tell your friends/start a revolution. Check out my feature on this band here.

In Solitude – Sister

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This band sounds like mid 80s The Cult + Mother-era Danzig but then with some of the atmospherics of Sisters Of Mercy. In my ears at least. So there isn’t anything really not to like. Big drum sound + echo in voice makes you feel like this was actually released in 1985, without ever being tacky, so points for that. Another awesome metal release.

My Bloody Valentine – m b v

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Everything has already been written about this record and I’m sure you’ve already read everything you need to know about except this: At a certain point, I drank beer and started gazing at my shoes very intensely while this album played. Except I wasn’t wearing shoes, just socks.

Paul McCartney – NEW

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I was expecting a really generic album, to be honest, and instead McCartney writes a few songs that may actually be solo-career standouts. I guess I should have known better. He is Paul McCartney after all. A really fun album that finds some nice introspective lyrics at times from him. Not a dull track on there.

Philip H Anselmo & The Illegals – Walk Through Exits Only

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Phil Anselmo made an album of what can only be described as anti-music. In his mid-40s, the guy is still pushing the envolope for metal, because nothing I know of sounds like this. I think that for the metal genre, this is one of the most important releases of the year. Check out my show review here.

Queens Of The Stone Age – …Like Clockwork

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Like every QOTSA release, I didn’t really like it at first. But then, like every QOTSA release, after a few spins you start to get it, and you becoming gradually more and more obsessed with it. Worth all the praise and attention it got.

Sky Ferreira – Night Time, My Time

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Sky Ferreira‘s album will put you in the mood to have a night out as much as it will be the perfect soundtrack to going back home. It’s dancy, poppy, druggy, hazy and it has a style all of its own. She’s a great singer, a great songwriter, stylistically all over the place and I’m looking forward to hearing her next album because I have no idea what she’ll do next.

The Bronx – The Bronx (IV)

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The Bronx  started out more like a hardcore band, but every subsquent release finds them getting better at what they do without losing the initial edge and hunger they started out with, with an increased focus on songwriting.

The Growlers – Hung At Heart

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I looooove the Growlers. I think I saw them twice this year. An early 2013 release will not be an excuse of forgetfulness on my end, for the mighty Growlers have made their best album so far and deserve mighty mighty praise. They’re being written about in the same vein as bands like the Black Lips/nu-psychedelia, but there is much more than meets the eye with these guys.

Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats – Mind Control

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A lot of bands are currently trying to replicate the early-70s feel of Sabbath, but this band isn’t trying to do anything, this is just who they are. I dunno how you label this though: post proto-metal? No clue. You must give this album a listen. You must. MMMkay??

Review: I Went To The Wiggle Room And So Should You

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It’s a strange feeling, being nostalgic about an era you haven’t even lived in. You listen to those old records, watch the black and white movies, find it back in recent pop culture shows such as Boardwalk Empire and Mad Men, and if you’re like me, you think “Why can’t this still exist?”.  Speaking to The Wiggle Room’s general manager, Patrick Charron, it is evident that it can, and more & more, it does.

As Mr. Charron says, this current generation is seemingly getting tired of the fast food culture, and this is apparent in many aspects of today’s society. Think about it. More people are being interested in switching to homegrown, organic food. Fast food joints now have Salads as a big part of their menu. We’re becoming aware that quality beats quantity, and that taking your time to enjoy your meal, your drink, your music, is important (an understatement in itself).

And this brings me to The Wiggle Room (3874 St-Laurent), a brand new Montreal nightclub that looks so vintage you’ll want to spell it Niteclub and call it a swell joint. The 70 capacity room offers nightly entertainment, ranging from Burlesque shows to live music to comedy. The official website is still in the works, so for more information I suggest you click here.

I walked in on a wednesday night, and was immediately transported: the look of the place is a spectacle in itself. Leather seats, dim lights, dark brick walls partially covered by purple curtains. No expense was spared and this is clearly go-for-broke stuff. In the middle, round wooden rustic tables and chairs just begging to be removed so folks can take advantage of the dance floor. There is a mini-theatre-like hollow stage, and, you guessed it, a red curtain.

I sat down and Mr. Charron presented the drinks menu to me, explaining: “Here, you’ll pay a bit more for a drink. But we make sure we get all the best ingredients, and we make you the real deal. No cheap rum and coke stuff. Here, you’ll get the level of alcohol the drink demands and we don’t cheapen it”. Drinks presented include Daiquiris, Manhattans, Old Fashioned, Gin Fizz… And I was curious to see if paying 12$ for a Daiquiry was indeed worth the money Mr. Charron said it was. First impression was it was properly served in a chilled cocktail glass and instead of garnishing it with the lime on the side, a lime spiral was inserted in the drink. Nice. The drink itself was mixed to perfection, with just the right amount of simple syrup to balance the sourness of the lime. The rum, a white Havana club, was as clear a taste as its non-alcoholic ingredients: not something you find in most Montreal bars. This was indeed the proper proportion, and in the most simplistic terms it was a strong drink, as it should be. The 12$ is justified: you usually pay 6-7$ for a cheap rum and coke in Montreal bars. If you need to drown out your sorrows at The Wiggle Room, at the end of the night you’ll probably pay a little bit more than you usually would, but at least you’ll have had a good quality drink. And I have to applaud our lovely waitress, I believe named Tamara, who provided as high quality of a service as the bar itself.

Next, the show began. Sultry piano/jazz duo Beth McKenna (Tenor Sax) and Ian Bartczak (dressed in proper ‘40s attire) performed songs old and new, from All That Jazz, to a scorching version of La Vie En Rose, to Just A Gigolo, and even Christina Aguilera’s hit, Beautiful (and it was so good that you don’t dare simply call it ironic). The acoustics of the room provide a gentle echo that elevates the quality of the music. Quick comedic snippets in between songs finalized the thought that you were watching an authentic cabaret show.  I have a feeling that The Wiggle Room will be known to be as important for its atmosphere as for its high quality shows.

While the band took a short break after the first set ended, I couldn’t resist ordering my favorite drink, a Manhattan. I know I should have stuck to rum-based drinks, but I couldn’t resist. To put you into context, I once had to explain to a local barman how to make a Manhattan after ordering it. But this one was as good as the best Manhattans I’ve ever had. Just the right amount of Angostura bitters (some bars don’t have bitters at all), and again, this was a “real” drink: strong, tasty and fresh.  Now, I wouldn’t really mention going to the bathroom, but seeing that the attention to detail went through even its look, you’ll be quick to notice the vintage looking toilets and sinks, almost giving the place a late 1920’s feel. Then you get back to the main room and it hits you: this place is just beautiful.

But it’s not for everyone: it’s a place that encourages you to take your time and even dress the part. As Charron stated, “Someone with a T-shirt and baseball cap can walk in, and that’s fine, but might feel out of place.” What I got out of The Wiggle Room was (and yes, I wore a suit) just how quickly this place made me decompress. When you have all the right elements: look, comfort, quality, entertainment, you realize what a lack of it presented itself to you in your nightlife. You can just take it easy and relax. Or don’t. Dance if you want to. The choice is yours and no judgment shall be made against you. It has a very anything goes feel, despite its intimidating at-first-glance impression. Where nostalgia often dwells in kitsch, The Wiggle Room vies for authenticity and class as opposed to tackiness.

And that’s all I’m gonna say about it, because the rest is up to you to discover.

The Wiggle Room stage

The Wiggle Room cozy corner

The Wiggle Room is located at 3874 Blvd. St-Laurent and is open 7pm to 3am Tues-Sun.  Phone: (514) 508-9465 Email: jeremy@wiggleroom.ca

From the press release:

”Welcome to Montreal’s brand-spanking-new burlesque and variety destination. Located in the heart of Montreal’s notorious St. Laurent Boulevard, The Wiggle Room is the bootleg baby of this city’s bawdy family tree. Born out of a desire to bring a traditional vaudeville spirit back to the street that was once known as Montreal’s ‘hardened artery’, The Wiggle Room is committed to providing high quality live shows six nights a week.

On the seventh we rest… if there is any rest for the wicked!”

2013 Summer Picks & Updated Suggested Upcoming Shows

 

Slow summer on the website, but with festival season soon out of the way, I’ll be back with some cool stuff starting in September. I’ve updated the list of suggested upcoming shows (to your right), and in the meantime I thought I’d share some stuff that came out this year that’s worth listening to. I’ll work with the presumption that you guys have ALL heard the new Daft Punk record, right? And the new QOTSA? All good.

 

CAMERA OBSCURA – DO IT AGAIN

This is just plain fun and sexy.  Great nonchalant vocals, a fine guitar riff over an uptempo beat and that feeling you get when you hear a well written song: Have I heard this before?

 

IMAGINARY CITIES – THE BELLS OF COLOGNE

I had written a feature on this band and just how much I love this album. Check it out here after you play this song.

 

MIKAL CRONIN – WEIGHT

Ty Segall’s bestest musical friend comes back with the most 90s alt rock sounding record I’ve heard this year, and it’s great.

 

BOMBINO – AMIDININE

Dan Auerbach adds unusual amounts of handclaps as he usually does when he produces an album, luckily it doesn’t interfere too much with the incredible vibe this  guitarist and his band have.

 

PHILIP H. ANSELMO & THE ILLEGALS

Phil Anselmo’s first solo record sounds like what a Jackson Pollock painting would sound like if it could scream. Do not expect anything close to a Pantera groove, or Down’s melodies. This is just plain uncomfortable, ugly and extreme. But somehow I couldn’t find myself stopping the album.

 

GHOST – SECULAR HAZE

I love Ghost. You should too. Check out the show review written right heeeeeeeeeeeeeere.

 

THE GROWLERS – NAKED KIDS

Ha! This band DITCHED Dan Auerbach’s mix of this album. Not even a producer credit. No damn handclaps here kids. One of my favourite current bands, and they’re coming back to Montreal October 2nd. I’ll be the overly excited fanboy taking notes.

 

MUDHONEY – DOUCHEBAGS ON PARADE

Because this is simply the best song title of all time. Wanna know why Mudhoney still rules? Check it out right here after listening to this song, and come to the show Sept. 1st @ Il Motore!

 

MILES KANE – DON’T FORGET WHO YOU ARE

Britrock is alive and well with this unpretentious little gem. Recals the glory of 90s Britpop, and later bands such as The Coral.

 

Lou Reed: Berlin @ Manchester Apollo 2007 Review

“In Berlin, by the wall
you were five foot ten inches tall
It was very nice
candlelight and Dubonnet on ice

We were in a small cafe
you could hear the guitars play
It was very nice
it was paradise”

-Lou Reed, “Berlin”

When I was 21 I got to go with 3 friends of mine to Manchester, UK. As you are at that age, we were like a sponge, just taking everything in with way too much idealism and romanticism, as if setting ourselves up for the perfect heartbreak. Although sponges are indeed not as emotional.

I remember that what pushed me to go, outside of the obvious, was knowing that Lou Reed, that summer at the Manchester Apollo, would be playing one of his only ever live performances of his greatest album, Berlin. Have show, will travel.

Having read what Lester Bangs wrote about it, which is what got me to pay attention to the album in the first place (even though I was already a pretty intense Coney Island Baby lover), I knew the album inside out: its story of love, rejection, drug addiction, prostitution, emotional isolation and suicide…and the controversy surrounding the album, the commercial flop it was and the subsequent classic it became. To me, it was simply one of the best and unique albums I had ever heard – to this day. I could feel this album inside me, I could relate to it but I couldn’t understand why.

And so I remember I bought a ticket to the show before having actually bought my plane ticket, as if to know that no matter what, I would be seeing this happen.

And through that trip, every possible emotion was felt by the four of us: love, hate, falling in, falling out, friendship, loss of friendship, friendship gained again, I could go on, but basically, this was our foray out of adolescence and into something that could resemble what shapes you into becoming an adult. During the trip, I fell in love (more than once actually), I felt heartbroken, I developed a thirst for proper british apple cider, visited 4 different countries, and well, saw Lou Reed live.

To listen to Berlin, for me, is not unlike the trip itself – it brings back memories, yes – but in its brief 45 minute playing time it takes you through basically every emotion the human body can experience.

When I saw the show live, Lou Reed did not spare anything. His masterpiece, shat upon for years, finally gets to be shown to those who have appreciated it. He had never performed the album live before that oh so brief tour, but you could tell he thought about it. Some lines were just that much more poignant live that it felt like he wanted to give the album a second life.

It was a completely unforgettable show, and I remember getting back “home” after the gig, my friend asking me what I thought about it (she didn’t know Lou Reed but it didnt matter)… I remember looking at her actually not knowing what to say until the words “This was the best show I’ve ever seen” came out. I’d said that before, but to this day, seeing Lou Reed live performing this album was the most spectacular, honest, ballsy, heavy, direct, poignant show I have ever seen.

I actually do get asked what the best show I have ever seen is. I often just answer that I don’t know because I don’t feel like explaining all of this, but there you have it. 6 years later, it remains Lou Reed at the Manchester Apollo, 2007, performing “Berlin” in its entirety.

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Montreal Fringe Fest: Elvis Is Water (Interview)

Scotty Boys Productions program and website

One of the more interesting shows at Montreal Fringe Fest, in my opinion, is Elvis Is Water. In an attempt to revisit Elvis Presley’s legendary Sun Studios Sessions, writer/director Katherine Sandford and her husband/lead vocalist John Burns assembled a show of live music which incorporates stories and talk about the Sun Sessions in between the songs.

So check out this amazing interview (I tip my hat to thee for taking the time to write such detailed and passionate answers), and come check out the show! Details as to when/where are right below the interview!

– Elvis has influenced everything from modern music to, most likely, my haircut. Do you find Elvis gets the credit he deserves?

 Musicians appreciate Elvis.  Anyone who really understands rock and roll gets it.But in a larger sense, the answer is no, and that’s really why we named the show “Elvis is Water”.  It comes from as joke that the great writer David Foster Wallace told at the beginning of the famous commencement address he gave at KenyonCollege.  There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?”

http://moreintelligentlife.com/story/david-foster-wallace-in-his-own-words

That’s the way it is with Elvis.  He’s influenced our culture so much we can’t even see it anymore.    Here’s a quote from the keynote address that Bruce Springsteen gave last year at SXSW conference in Austin, which we reference in our show. (I’ve put the bits we used in italics, you might not want to print all of this – or maybe you will).

“In the beginning, every musician has their genesis moment. For you, it might have been the Sex Pistols, or Madonna, or Public Enemy. It’s whatever initially inspires you to action. Mine was 1956, Elvis on the Ed Sullivan Show. It was the evening I realized a white man could make magic, that you did not have to be constrained by your upbringing, by the way you looked, or by the social context that oppressed you. You could call upon your own powers of imagination, and you could create a transformative self.

A certain type of transformative self, that perhaps at any other moment in American History, might have seemed difficult, if not impossible. And I always tell my kids that they were lucky to be born in the age of reproducible technology, otherwise they’d be traveling in the back of a wagon and I’d be wearing a jester’s hat. It’s all about timing. The advent of television and its dissemination of visual information changed the world in the fifties the way the internet has over the past twenty years.

Remember, it wasn’t just the way Elvis looked, it was the way he moved that made people crazy, pissed off, driven to screaming ecstasy, and profane revulsion. That was television. When they made an attempt to censor him from the waist down, it was because of what you could see happening in his pants.

Elvis was the first modern Twentieth Century man, the precursor of the Sexual Revolution, of the Civil Rights Revolution, drawn from the same Memphis as Martin Luther King, creating fundamental, outsider art that would be embraced by a mainstream popular culture.

Television and Elvis gave us full access to a new language, a new form of communication, a new way of being, a new way of looking, a new way of thinking; about sex, about race, about identity, about life; a new way of being an American, a human being; and a new way of hearing music. Once Elvis came across the airwaves, once he was heard and seen in action, you could not put the genie back in the bottle. After that moment, there was yesterday, and there was today, and there was a red hot, rockabilly forging of a new tomorrow, before your very eyes.”

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/exclusive-the-complete-text-of-bruce-springsteens-sxsw-keynote-address-20120328#ixzz1tG05xSvM

– People see two different Elvises. The young, swaggering Elvis as represented in your show, and the overweight, oft-parodied Elvis. Do you find that Elvis is often overshadowed by what he later on became?

Well, for a start there are waaay more than just two Elvis’ – people have costume parties were everyone comes as Elvis and all the costumes are different.  Here’s just a few – there’s Elvis in the Army getting his hair cut, the Hollywood Elvis making all those awful movies, there’s the 68 Comeback special Elvis rockin’ it in black leather, there’s Hawaiian Elvis (Lilo and Stich) there’s Karate Elvis (yikes), and there’s the Gospel Elvis – one of the most important IMHO.

Not only did Elvis win his only Grammy for a gospel record, and was a huge gospel fan all his life, he was also a spiritual seeker.  He had books on all kinds of religions and philosophies which he annotated heavily with his own ideas – they have them all at Graceland.

But I think the way he died did overshadow things for a long time.  It was a shock.  He was so humiliated – dying on the toilet like that, so ravaged by the drugs. And it was terrifying – because you couldn’t help but think – is that the way it goes?  Is that going to happen to me?  To us all?  And the short answer is yes, it is.  We are all going to die, and dying is hard.

But now enough time has passed that the shock has worn off a little and the other Elvis’ are shining through – and speaking to artists in new ways.  You may be aware of Free Comic Book Day “May the Fourth be with you.” Well, last year in celebration they Liquid Comics released a limited edition book called Graphic Elvis, (Elvis was a famous comic-book geek, and he said he modelled his look after Captain Marvel he was actually blonde).

Anyway, Graphic Elvis is AWESOME — all these top-notch comic book artists and their interpretations of Elvis, sooo cool.  There is one strip where the Hindu Gods are debate making Elvis the new love god because they credit him with the invention of the Bollywood genre.

But the kicker is “Elvis” written by the great Stan Lee, where we see the King at the pearly gates, being quizzed by St. Peter.  Here’s link to an animated version Wired mag did. http://www.wired.com/underwire/2012/05/stan-lee-graphic-elvis/

When Elvis died he had a book in his hands about the historical evidence of the life of Jesus Christ.  So maybe now he’s just a different kind of seeker.

– Another take on Elvis nowadays might be Elvis Is Product. From nostalgia acts, impersonators to t-shirts and posters, do you find the music often gets pushed to the side? Do people remember Elvis as an icon more than they do the songs?

Well, I personally have no problem with Elvis as product, because it’s not some faceless corporation, it’s Priscilla!!  Elvis was actually almost broke when he died, but she was the one who marketed him so successfully – she’s one smart cookie!  She’s actually famous in intellectual property law because she (and her lawyers, obviously) came up with the idea of copywriting a person’s image – Elvis’ was the first!

Also the estate of Elvis is actually very, very generous with fans.  They keep a tight rein on his recording s and his image, but they totally support all the imitators and interpreters.

Priscilla rocks, and she and Lisa Marie deserve every cent they get.

– The actual sound of the Sun Session recordings, from any artist, arguably plays as much of a role in these recordings as the songs themselves. Was this difficult to transpose to the stage?

To be honest we didn’t even try, because it’s impossible. The technicians at RCA went nuts trying to recreate that sound, and they never could. There’s a magic to that room.

But, like the entire show, we were aiming for an interpretation, not an imitation.  And I think the most important part of Elvis’ Sun work was the incredible sound they got from just three instruments (Scotty Moore’s electric guitar, Bill Black’s stand-up bass and Elvis’ rhythm guitar).   They didn’t even have a drum!  That and also the wide variety musical styles they played with.

– Elvis Is Water attempts to find an answer as to why Elvis is as fascinating now as he was 50 years ago. How close do you think you are to the answer?

There is no answer; there are only more questions, grasshopper.

– How did the idea of writing this show as a play come about?

John has an amazing voice, and he loves to sing Elvis.  But he doesn’t like to be unprepared.  He never liked doing ad-lib banter.  And he sure as heck didn’t want to be an Elvis impersonator, so I told him I’d write some stuff for him to say between songs – and then we fell into the rabbit hole together.

– The last, incredibly obvious question. Is Elvis responsible for the birth of rock n roll?

No.  According to Elvis himself it had been around for at least 5 years before he started.

Rock and Roll is lightning, and Elvis was the lightning rod.

Feature: Imaginary Cities

Listen to Imaginary Cities here

I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to figure out how to describe Imaginary Cities. Google them, and you’ll unfortunately get the word “indie” pop up everywhere. “Indie” doesn’t mean anything anymore, in an age where most bands really do “Do It Yourself”. Pop music can be indie nowadays, and so we fall into a bit of a conundrum. Let’s start by what made Imaginary Cities indie: 2 people in the band, multi-instrumentalists, recording and playing everything themselves which warrants a definite do-it-yourself etiquette. But it sounds huge. I am not saying that “indie” sounding music doesn’t sound huge, as a matter of fact I think that from plaid-wearing-banjo-loving-way-too-smiley-folk-rock to retro-sounding-sludge-metal, the term “indie” seems to mean absolutely nothing anymore, as far as attempting to describe music.

Where Imaginary Cities standout, for me, out of the whole indie scene, is that when you hear the music, you can’t help but visualize it. Like this is music that should be played in an arena with a huge budget and massive stage set designed by someone like Robert Lepage. Just look at the front cover of their sophomore album, The Fall Of Romance (out now via Hidden Pony / Votiv), which looks like something out of German filmmaker Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. Skip to track 3 and be re-transported to Germany through the beautiful, sweeping song “The Bells Of Cologne”. “Sooner or Later” only reinforces this imagery by heavily recalling the Berlin-period Bowie classic “Sound And Vision”. PS: I checked to find any German connections that Imaginary Cities’ Marti Sarbit and Rusty Matyas may have, but fell flat. Which makes sense, being a tourist is always more romantic than being a native, isn’t it? They’re from Winnipeg, Canada.

To be fair, there is an undeniable Canadian Pop sound to this band. This band could easily tour with acts such as Metric, Arcade Fire, etc… and not be out of place. But Imaginary Cities is just better than the competition. They do not hide behind style for substance to come out. This is true great pop songwriting; often recalling what would happen if the Bee Gees, Bowie and, say Nicolette Larson made an album together.

As with any good art, it brings you into its world, letting you breathe into it comfortably instead of just waiting to know how it will end or which song will standout. To listen to The Fall Of Romance is as much of an experience as watching a great movie, or reading a great novel: something that is completely engrossing and rich and makes you want more. It paints its own doomed-romantic landscape knowing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel – this is what keeps you grinning throughout. The lyrics have an attitude that recalls Blondie and Canada’s own Blue Rodeo all at once. Everything about Imaginary Cities is smart. I can see why this band limits itself to two members: no 3rd party ego, just a duo sharing an uncompromising single vision and putting life into it. Live, the band gives you the full experience by being a 5-piece group.

Imaginary Cities will be in Montreal June 13, performing at Club Lambi (4465 Boulevard Saint-Laurent). Tickets are 13$ (hear me lol, folks), and can be purchased at https://greenlandevenko.ticketabc.com/events/imaginary130613/

Your mission, dear reader, should you choose to accept it, is to be there.

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