Saturday, August 31, 2013

Friday, August 30, 2013

Hesitation Marks

Ever since Nine Inch Nails called it quits, temporarily, in 2009, Trent Reznor has been on a creative roll; scoring soundtracks for two David Fincher films (one great, one not so great) with Atticus Ross, scoring a popular video game, and within the past year, making new music with his side band, How To Destroy Angels, in which his wife sings lead in. Today he is a happy, family man. He's sworn off drugs and alcohol for years now, so it's understandable his current state of mind is more or less reflected in NIN's latest album, one we never thought we expect to hear so soon. Every NIN album since Pretty Hate Machine has brought something sonically stunning to the table, and Hesitation Marks is no different. This time however, they've decided to make the album more electronic and synth heavy, and place less emphasis on guitar noise & distortion, not that there's anything wrong with that. Personally it takes a bit getting used to the occasional Depeche Mode, funky, new-age hip-hop beats and drum loops. Still the songs have that undeniable signature NIN sound, albeit being a little quieter in volume and subtler in their melodic changes. I can't wait to get my hands on the vinyl next week and taste that really deep low end on the sub.

There are musical flashes of The Downward Spiral, With Teeth, and especially Year Zero and Ghosts on this record, but when it comes to Reznor's songwriting, the quality of his lyrics are rather inconsistent. I know we can't expect to have any of those angst and self-loathing lyrics he was so well known for in the past, but occasionally his words seem a tad bit contrived and uninspired, like on the surprisingly poppy (very un-NIN-like) Everything for example. There are a few exceptions though, like Satellite, a funky anthem about paranoia, (though I can't help but think it's as if Timbaland collaborated with Trent), or even Copy Of A (featuring Lindsey Buckingham on guitar), brilliant in its simplicity; I love how in Copy Of A the loud portion three quarters of the way gets gradually softer. No matter how many times I've heard the single, Came Back Haunted, it still sounds refreshing in the context of a full album. The best track is Various Methods Of Escape; lush sonic textures and perfectly executed in every way possible. I must say, despite its (lyrical) flaws, Hesitation Marks is a musically captivating album, and I applaud Reznor for challenging himself and his audience by heading towards a new direction. He gives us what we don't expect and may not like immediately but we are absorbed by it, and if we stay with it long enough, we are moved. It's a rewarding listen. 


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Another Self Portrait

Here's an official film that may change the way people think about a weird period in Dylan's career and his heavily-criticized Self Portrait [link].


Sunday, August 25, 2013

A Nuclear Explosion - Metallica live in Singapore

How is it that it took the band twenty long years for them to return to our shores? Unbelievable, considering that S'pore has a huge heavy metal following. Drummer Lars Ulrich expressed his disbelief towards the end of the 2hrs-plus show. Last night the fans welcomed back Metallica with wide open arms, and all throughout there was a constant feeding of energy off each other, between the crowd and the band. I think this is the first (local) rock concert I've been to where the audience actually sang out in gusto the non-vocal melodies to many of the hits, including Kirk Hammett's signature guitar solos on songs like Fade To Black and Nothing Else Matters. To say the band was on fire is an understatement. They played their hearts out, at whiplash intensity, and they were 100% tight as hell. James Hetfield engaged the crowd often and he looked genuinely happy to be on that stage. Apart from the performance, what also blew me away was how perfect the sound was. The volume was very very loud obviously (every single kick drumbeat made your hair on your skin jump up), even for a big outdoor show, but it was 'good and nice' loud, not 'overly-distorted and painful' loud. Now we can relive this earth-shattering gig over and over again with the upcoming official bootleg, soon to be released.

1. Hit The Lights
2. Master Of Puppets
3. The Shortest Straw
4. Ride The Lightning
5. Fade To Black
6. The Memory Remains
7. Broken, Beat & Scarred
8. Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
9. Sad But True
10. ...And Justice for All
11. One
12. For Whom The Bell Tolls
13. Blackened
14. Nothing Else Matters
15. Enter Sandman
16. Creeping Death
17. Battery
18. Seek & Destroy

Friday, August 16, 2013


This is not a dream, but it sure felt like one when I heard the news. I just couldn't believe it! After the wildly successful Wrecking Ball Australian tour just five months ago, there had been numerous rumors about promoter Michael Gudinski trying to bring Bruce and co back again whenever their next tour is.....perhaps in two to three years time if we're lucky. But who would've thought they'd actually come back down under in less than a year later? And getting to see Bruce three years in a row?! That's beyond mindblowing. And they're finally playing two Australian cities for the first time ever. And New Zealand in more than a decade.

This tour is not billed as part of the Wrecking Ball tour, but rather, a set of one-off shows specially for the fans down under, according to the press and Frontier Touring. Full album shows are fine by me. It's still early to tell, but I wouldn't be surprised if ultimately the Australasian tour happens to be the start of a new world tour in support of a brand new album. It's highly possible, given the fact that Bruce has already started work on it, with plenty of time between now and next Jan/Feb to release it. Besides, this practice has been done before during the 08/09 period (Working On The Dream tour started eight months after the Magic tour).

Tickets this time are priced slightly higher than previously, but there's no doubt these initial dates will sell out fast and more will soon be added. Next year marks fifty years of Bruce Springsteen as a live performer and it's so awesome that Australia is chosen to kick off what seems like another touring year, instead of always beginning in the States and Europe. I won't be able to go back to Sydney this time round, so I'll be hitting up the outdoor show at Melbourne, and maybe Perth Arena simply because the venue is so cool, and it's Springsteen's very first visit to Perth! Oh yeah, Steve Van Zandt will be joining the band after missing Oz this year, and Tom Morello will be back too!


UPDATED (Aug 26)
Friday, February 7 – Perth Arena, Perth
Saturday, February 8 – Perth Arena, Perth 
Tuesday, February 11 – Entertainment Centre, Adelaide
Saturday, February 15 – AAMI Park, Melbourne
Sunday, February 16 – AAMI Park, Melbourne 
Wednesday, February 19 – Allphones Arena, Sydney
Saturday, February 22 – Hope Estate Winery, Hunter Valley
Wednesday, February 26 – Entertainment Centre, Brisbane
Saturday, March 1 – Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland

Frontier Pre-sale: Wednesday, 21 August – Thursday, 22 August
Melbourne: 12pm (AEST)
Sydney: 1pm (AEST)
Brisbane, Adelaide: 2pm (AEST)
Perth: 3pm (AEST)

General public on sale: Monday, August 26
Melbourne: 9am (local)
Perth: 9am (local)
Sydney: 10am (Local)
Brisbane, Adelaide: 12pm (Local)

Friday, August 9, 2013

Pretty Saro

Here is one of the most beautiful and moving songs Bob Dylan has ever sung in his entire career. It's got me even more excited for the upcoming release of Another Self Portrait: Bootleg Series Vol 10.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Civil Wars

The Civil Wars have a brand new album out. But they are in the midst their own civil war. Joy Williams & John Paul White, two of the most talented people in music today have not spoken to each other in almost a year, ever since they announced a seemingly long and indeterminate hiatus due to “internal discord and irreconcilable differences of ambition”. The duo had blown up big last year; clinching two Grammys, reaching the top ten with their debut album, Barton Hollow, and making a hit song with Taylor Swift. I was just about to get tickets to their Australian tour that was supposed to happen earlier this year, when all of a sudden they officially announced their "break-up".

This self-titled sophomore effort is even more bleak, but much stronger than Barton Hollow (the album cover couldn't be more clear); filled songs of yearning, break up and loneliness. On the surface they are about the relationships between two lovers gone sour, but really it's hard to listen and not think that many of these songs were a reflection of the problems and tension stirring up between Williams & White during the recording sessions. Musically they're less quiet this time round too; the more fleshed-out textures with the addition of drums and distorted guitars, those sudden instrumental escalations in melodies and volume occasionally lift the tension and heartbreak up to anthemic proportions, as heard in songs like Same Old Same Old and Eavesdrop. The more rough-edged stuff like I Had Me A Girl, Devil's Backbone and Oh Henry all follow the same vein as Barton Hollow (the song).

My God, the way both of them pour their hearts & souls into their vocals and the way their voices intertwine with each other is simply breathtaking. My absolute favorite is From This Valley, a mighty fine example of 21st Century Americana that puts the pseudo-folk outfit, Mumford & Sons, to shame. I listen to a song like this and it gives me hope that this won't be the last we'll hear from The Civil Wars. I share the same sentiment with every fan out there -- we can only hope both of them are able to resolve their differences in due time and get back onstage where they belong.


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Top Five

I may not always agree with Rolling Stone (their last 'terrorist/rock star' cover was just distasteful; read the full article, thought it was a riveting piece of journalism, but felt it didn't need to be a cover story), but love it whenever they put Bruce on the cover. He is ranked as the no.1 best current live act in music [link]. This is not an opinion; it's a fact. To 'commemorate' the new cover, here's my top five moments at a Springsteen concert:

1. Bruce making direct eye contact with me while playing the harmonica at the end of The Promised Land (Sydney - 20/3/13)

2. The E Street Band exploding into Badlands at my very first show (London, 28/6/09)

3. Hearing Thunder Road in the pouring rain (Manchester, 22/6/12)

4. The Clarence Clemons tribute during Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out (Sunderland, 21/6/12)

5. Prove It All Night with the 1978 intro.....twice!!! (Manchester & Sydney, 22/3/13)