[Album Review] "Get a Grip" – Aerosmith (original review)

Get a Grip - AerosmithAlbum Title: Get a Grip
Artist: Aerosmith
Year: 1993
Running Time: 65m 35s

Track listing: 1 Intro; 2 Eat the Rich; 3 Get a Grip; 4 Fever; 5 Livin’ on the Edge; 6 Flesh; 7 Walk on Down; 8 Shut Up and Dance; 9 Cryin’; 10 Gotta Love It; 11 Crazy; 12 Line Up; 13 Can’t Stop Messin’; 14 Amazing; 15 Boogie Man

There was an unprecedented four year gap between the release of previous album, “Pump”, and the latest Aerosmith disc, “Get a Grip”. This was the last studio album recorded for Geffen and Aerosmith knew that they had reached the top of their popularity at this point. Amazingly this album was to push them even further in the estimation of the world’s rock fans. This album was a mix of polished rockers and accomplished ballads but somehow the archetypical swagger that is present on many Aerosmith albums, was missing.

There were several huge worldwide hits. ‘Cryin’ was a top notch blues-ballad that was well served by a beautiful organ backing, trademark harmonica, perfected harmonies, some tasty Joe Perry guitar licks and a rousing post-chorus horn-propelled section. An absolute winner.

‘Livin’ on the Edge’, the story of a world on the brink, was another big hit. Steven Tyler felt that there was ‘something wrong with the world today’, ‘there was meltdown in the sky’. Strangely interpreted as a dark power-ballad, ‘Livin on the Edge’ struts brilliantly with penetrating edgy guitar performances from Brad Whitford and Perry and a slowly-descending finale that is soaked in tension and just maybe, reluctant resignation.

The best song on the album is the fantastic ‘Amazing’ which was marred by the recording of a totally unrelated video featuring teen-idol, Alicia Silverstone (who also appeared in the ‘Cryin’ and ‘Crazy’ videos – a collection which was dubbed the ‘Cryin Trilogy’). ‘Amazing’ is the story of Tyler’s climb from the pharmecutical wreckage to the ultimate moment of sobriety. ‘I kept the right ones out and let the wrong ones in’, laments Tyler. Because it is such a personal lyric, the imagery it creates is possibly unparalleled by the band; ‘When I lost my grip and I hit the floor, yeah I thought I could leave but couldn’t get out the door’, admits the lead singer who then recalls the gravity of the situation with the band: ‘That one last shot, a permanent vactaion, and how high can you fly with broken wings’. The first bit of the lyric is a reference to the career-saving album, the latter being a refernece to the band’s famous ‘wings’ logo. Listen to this song with your eyes closed.

Other tracks released as singles were ‘Shut Up and Dance’, ‘Crazy’ and ‘Eat the Rich’. The first was a formulaic slice of pop-rock, the second a country ballad similar to ‘What it Takes’ but not in the same quality circle and the latter a more abrasive rocker featuring some anarchic solo work from Joe Perry.

Elsewhere on the album, there are some cool cuts. ‘Can’t Stop Messin’ is a slit-eyed, down-and-dirty rocker with an effective Brad Whitford/Perry duel in the mid-section, ‘Fever’ boogies in for a funky four minutes and ‘Line Up’ is a mid-tempo, brass-injected groove co-written with Lenny Kravitz and home to a super-cool vocal finale that really rocks.

The rest of the album is either ‘take it or leave it’ or downright forgettable. ‘Get a Grip’ is a mediocre funk effort that entertains to a minimum, ‘Flesh’ is an odd, rather tuneless song whose only saving grace is the slowly descending chorus and ‘Gotta Love It’ is almost laborious in execution but is musically very competent.

‘Walk on Down’ sees Joe Perry grabbing the mic again only to be ‘average’ again. The song itself is not that bad but Perry just doesn’t shine as a vocalist or as a solo songwriter; his roots are deep in straight-forward rock n roll.

So “Get a Grip” was a multi platinum seller and a good album to boot but the commercial attraction and natural progression of maturity has blunted the band’s gritty appeal of the past.

3star

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[Album Review] "Album of the Year" – Faith No More

Album of the Year - Faith No MoreAlbum Title: Album of the Year
Artist: Faith No More
Year: 1997
Running Time: 43m 4s

Track listing: 1 Collision; 2 Stripsearch; 3 Last Cup of Sorrow; 4 Naked in Front of the Computer; 5 Helpless; 6 Mouth to Mouth; 7 Ashes to Ashes; 8 She Loves Me Not; 9 Got That Feeling; 10 Paths of Glory; 11 Home Sick Home; 12 Pristina

Faith No More are a band that normally define the word consistency. Following the relative splendour of “The Real Thing” and “Angel Dust”, there were many disappointed faces when “King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime” somewhat missed the mark. What a relief then to welcome the offbeat rockers back to the fold with their current release, “Album of the year”. Cheeky buggers, eh?

Lead guitarist Jim Martin has moved to pastures new with Jon Hudson filling the rather sizeable gap. Not that it has seemed to make any difference as “Album of the Year” is probably the most inventive record they have ever released. Credit for the flexibility of Faith No More’s style must go to lead singer Mike Patton who is capable of screaming out trash metal-esque lyrics with relative ease before instantly manoeuvring into a calm and reasoned lyric with no problem at all.

The high points on this album are very high indeed. “Ashes to Ashes” is a classic power-ballad which benefits from wonderful guiitar from Hudson and an eerie keyboard track from Roddy Bottum. ‘Helpless’ is an acoustic triumph`which should warrant a single release and ‘Last Cup of Sorrow’ is a brilliant tune which perfectly encapsulates the stengths of the band from vocals, to lyrics, their use of keyboards to enhance their sound, to their expertise in composition.

They sure know a good tune and there are other fine examples; the melodic ‘She Loves me Not’, the dreamy ‘Stripsearch’, the guitar-ridden and surreally-titled ‘Naked in Front of the Computer’ and ‘Paths of Glory’ which sounds like it was pulled straight from “Angel Dust”.

The weaker moments are not even all that weak; ‘Home Sick Home’, ‘Got That Feeling’ and ‘Collision’ pale in comparison to the aforementioned but you probably won’t reach for the ‘next track’ button.

Overall it is an excellent album and shows a real return to form for Mike and the boys.

3halfstar

[Album Review] "I've Got the Rock N' Rolls Again" – Joe Perry Project

I've Got the Rock 'N' Rolls Again - Joe Perry ProjectAlbum Title: I’ve Got the Rock ‘N’ Rolls Again
Artist: Joe Perry Project
Year: 1981
Running Time: 38m 46s

Track listing: 1 East Coast, West Coast; 2 No Substitue for Arrogance; 3 I’ve Got the Rock ‘N’ Rolls Again; 4 Buzz Buzz; 5 Soldier of Fortune; 6 TV Police; 7 Listen to the Rock; 8 Dirty Little Things; 9 Play the Game; 10 South Station Blues

Following the reasonably successful Joe Perry Project debut album (“Let the Music do the Talking” reached #47 despite efforts by his record company to crush it in a bid to get Joe Perry back into Aerosmith), the band released their follow-up. Former lead singer Ralph Morman was fired to be replaced by Charlie Farren and the Project were hanging on by their teeth.

There are a few pretty good cuts on the album. Firstly, the methodical and beautifully executed ‘Play the Game’. It might have been a song of seeming hopelessness and tragedy but Perry is far from hopeless as his powerful solo chords are a perfect compliment to Charlie Farren’s depressed vocal.

‘No Substitute for Arrogance’ is a wonderfully strutting rocker, a perfect vehicle for two arrogant guitarists. ‘Dirty Little Things’ is probably the best track on the album with Farren doing his best Kiss impression. Nice upbeat tune, cool vocals, both lead and backing. ‘East Coast, West Coast’ is a fast-moving tale of 80s rock-n-roll decadence. Not particularly sophisticated or ground-breaking but cool to listen to all the same.

Things drop a notch after that. ‘Listen to the Rock’ is a determined but dated rocker which must have been baked in the ‘1980s Oven of Sound’ and ‘South Station Blues’ is a Perry vocal which encapsulates the desperate and resigned attitude he must have been developing at the time. Some nice guitar from Perry holds an average track together.

But there is too much standard fare here. ‘Buzz Buzz’ is an odd rocker, has it’s moments but sounds partially infantile, ‘Soldier of Fortune’ is average enough too and the chorus is just repetitive and annoying, while ‘TV Police’ just ends up being banal.

Time had run out on the Project but for fans the album is worth a shot.

2star

[Movie Review] The Frighteners

The FrightenersStarring: Michael J Fox, Jake Busey, Dee Wallace
Director: Peter Jackson
Genre: Comedy
Cert: 15
Released: 1996

There are many questions that need answering but none more so than, “why does Michael J Fox still look about 12 years old”? Well he doesn’t really look 12 but the man seems to bathe in the fountain of youth. You might also ask why his career never really took off the way it should have. Obviously he had a lot of success in the mid-eighties (TVs “Family Ties”, Back to the Future trilogy, “Secret of my Success”, “Casualties of War” for example) but that hasn’t translated well into the ninties. Most of his hits have been straight-to-video in Ireland (“Give me a Break”, “The Concierge”, “Greedy”) or else have only been minor roles (“American President”, “Mars Attacks”).

For my part, I have always found him a very good comedian and thoroughly enjoyable to watch. Imagine my delight when he was lined up to play the main character in Peter Jackson’s new movie, “The Frighteners”. Who is Peter Jackson? Hey folks, get down to the video store and rent the 1992 horror classic, “Braindead” (aka “Dead Alive”). It’s a comedy horror which contains an insatiable amount of gore. It is so funny. So anyway, time to review the movie, eh?

Frank Bannister (Fox) is a psychic investigator but like all the good ones, he is a total fraud. After a car accident he adopted an amazing ability to see and talk to ghosts. For a living, Bannister sends his three best ghouls, Judge, Cyrus and Stuart, to spook out a family before turning up with his ‘equipment’ to exorcise the ghostly carryings-on. This serves him well until he begins to witness another force in attendance – an evil one that neither he nor his ghosts provided for. When people start turning up dead all over the city, Bannister is the prime suspect and his relationship with a local doctor, Lucy Lynskey (Trini Alvardo) only helps to incriminate him further.

The reason I like “The Frighteners” is that it is not just a special effects extravanza. There is a worthy story to be told and even though it is one that is fixated in the world of the unlikely paranormal, it still manages to be real and tangible. The special effects are good – Bannister’s ghostly helpers and the others graveyard dwellers are simplistic but effective. While their movements and jokes (falling through walls, not being able to smoke cigars/drink/eat) get a little ‘samey’, it never becomes a chore to enjoy. The most impressive special effect involves the ‘bad guy’ whom will genuinely spook you.

Jackson has done a good job here. He has created a film that has its fair share of mild frights and genuine tension. Many horrors make the mistake of having over-indulgent, complicated story-lines involving witchcraft and sacrifices where a dead spirit has returned thousands of years after it was killed. As much of a paradox as it is, this paranormal tale is as close to reality as something of this ilk can be. A quality mix of comedy and horror and once again I suggest that you find “Braindead”.

3star

[Movie Review] Grosse Point Blank

Grosse Point BlankStarring: John Cusack, Minnie Driver, Dan Ackroyd, Alan Arkin, Jeremy Piven, Joan Cusack, Hank Azaria
Director: George Armitage
Genre: Comedy
Cert: 15
Released: 1997

Life is no bed of roses for Martin Blank (John Cusack – “Con Air”). Working as a professional killer for five years, he finally sees little value in it and longs for a change. One only has to see the signs of resignation and possibly apology in his eyes when he answers a mark’s question: ‘why?’. ‘It’s not me’, Blanke declares.

When a job goes wrong he is told to complete another job which he has decided will be his last. The job coincides with and is in close proximity to Grosse Pointe; the place where his ten year school reunion is taking place. Advised by his therapist (Arkin – “Coupe De Ville”, “Glengary Glen Ross”) and his office manager (Joan Cusack) to attend the reunion, Blank arrives in Grosse Pointe knowing that he will face the wrath of Debi (Driver – “Circle of Friends”, “Sleepers”, “Good Will Hunting”), the woman he left waiting on prom night before disappearing ten years previously.

But life is hanging by a string for Blank and his attempts at reconciliating with Debi are hampered by the close attentions of a pissed-off Eastern-bloc hitman and also Grocer (Ackroyd) and his hired goons who all want him dead. However, meeting up with his school ‘pals’ of the past might be an even worse experience…

“Grosse Pointe Blank” is an enjoyable experience; sharp and witty and very amusing for the most part – very much a ‘new wave’ type of movie. The quality script might have been less effective if it wasn’t for the excellent execution from the cast. Cusack wallows in black comedy most of the time but balances his ‘self-assured killer’ performance with a less confident swagger when dealing with the people in Grosse Pointe. Dan Ackroyd makes an excellent return to form, Minnie Driver is a million miles from the innocent schoolgirl performance in “Circle Of Friends” and the hyperactive Joan Cusack is surprisingly well cast as Cusack’s secretary.

What I most like about his film is the lack of sentimentality shown. By rights it should have been swimming in it but director, George Armitage, purposefully keeps “Grosse Pointe Blank” away from that typicality. There is nothing particularly outstanding about the movie, but you can’t argue with the entertainment value. After this and ‘Con Air’, I think the tide is finally turning for John Cusack – he may be the next Al Pacino…

2halfstar