Friday, July 27, 2012

Alice in Chains - "Would?"


Dirt was one of the first compact discs I ever owned. One of those early pieces of music that continues to transition you from one genre of music to another. In order to hide any evidence of poser-dom I had recently thrown away all my C&C Music Factory and Color Me Badd cassette tapes and replaced them with Nirvana and Sonic Youth. Alice in Chains’ Dirt came soon afterwards as a 13th birthday present from an older friend and neighbor. I hadn’t gotten into the harder stuff yet, and what I now realize was a covert attempt to push an elder friend’s tastes on an impressionable new teenager had worked. While Dirt, a record revolving around heavy drug addiction performed by disturbed drug addicts, was far too bleak and depressing for a kid of my age, it did open up the door to some of the harder rock I would get in to soon afterwards (Helmet, Ministry, Rage Against the Machine). And there was “Would?”, a ridiculously incredible hard rock single that found the band firing on all cylinders. Lead guitarist Jerry Cantrell wrote it, and Layne Staley, with that dark, raspy voice so many awful bands would soon imitate, fleshes out the vocals. “Would?” is also a snapshot of a 90’s trend that has been mostly lost in the new age of pop/rock; great songwriting and technical prowess. Half-step tuned down guitars flourish over the low bass notes the song sits upon while Sean Kinney supplies hefty amounts of bassy percussion and a gripping, head-banging fill section in the song’s outro. While I no longer carry the entire record as an adult, “Would?” remains one of my favorite tracks of the 90’s. And Alice in Chains may not net you many style points, but those two underrated, soft-rock releases (Sap, Jar of Flies) that bookend Dirt suggest Alice in Chains are more innovators of the era than grunge-fad flameouts.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Albert Hammond, Jr. - Yours to Keep

Bright Young Thing
Back to the 101

A couple of years back, Chavez wrote a great post about the weaknesses in both Julian Casablancas’s and Albert Hammond, Jr.’s solo material. You should give it a read if you haven’t done so already. In summary, he states that Hammond, Jr.’s shoddy songwriting can’t be saved by his great guitar riffs, and on the other hand Casablancas has a lot of great songwriting ideas, but doesn’t have Hammond, Jr.’s chops to tie those ideas together. I agree with just about everything he wrote. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Yours to Keep contains the best Strokes-related material outside of a Strokes records to date. If “Back to the 101,” with its Television-like guitar work, was sung by Casablancas it could fit neatly anywhere on Is This It or . And the slow building, music box sounding “Bright Young Thing” was easily one of the best tracks of 2007. Yours to Keep isn’t essential by any stretch of the imagination, but a Strokes fan could surely find a few gems to mine here.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Afghan Whigs - Gentlemen

When We Two Parted

Ladies let me tell you about myself
I got a dick for a brain and my brain is gonna sell my ass to you
Now I’m ok but in time I’ll find I’m stuck
‘Cause she wants love and I still want to fuck

Greg Dulli croons on “Be Sweet” before the guitars and drums build into an excellently ugly bridge. These ugly truths Greg Dulli so candidly confesses populate the entirety of Gentlemen, and it’s what makes this collection of songs so compelling.

Gentlemen, a record that was released in late 1993, propelled The Afghan Whigs to the fringes of mainstream. At a time when grunge was dominating the airwaves, Dulli and Co., soaked up some airplay with a hard rock that was more soulful than the majority of what their counterparts were producing. The guitars didn’t rely so heavily on the power chords that had become so prevalent at the time; Greg Dulli and Rick McCollum combined melodic distortion with slide guitars, octaves and pedal effects. The strings combine with off-kilter 4/4 percussion and odd bass drum syncopations, and in reality The Afghan Whigs have a lot more in common with 90’s post-hardcore/indie groups Fugazi and Jawbox than they did with Nirvana or Stone Temple Pilots.

My introduction to The Afghan Whigs was when that memorable (and now humorously dated) music video they released for Gentlemen’s title track was played on MTV. As a new teenager who had just began guitar lessons, the distorted high string guitar strums and its interplay with the percussion was something I could only wish to replicate in my shitty garage band. In following one of the few 90’s formulas they did have in common with their grungy brethren, the quiet verse shifts into a loud chorus and Dulli yells “Understand! Do you Understand?!” Fuck, was I hooked to that track. I never bought the record though, and the seldom times I heard it at my best friend’s place nothing caught my ear quite like “Gentlemen” did.

My cousin however remained a steadfast fan throughout the years, and when he told me he picked up tickets for us to the Terminal 5 reunion show this fall, I decided it was time to finally download a copy. The aforementioned “Be Sweet” is a highlight, as well as the intensely guitar driven “Debonair” and “Fountain and Fairfax.” But the only track that nearly matches “Gentlemen” in songwriting prowess, with its slide guitar leads and Dulli’s signature implicatively confessional yet self-aggrandizing lyrics, is the ballady “When Two We Parted.” The second half of Gentlemen tails off a bit, but re-familiarizing myself with The Afghan Whigs has me pretty fucking excited for that reunion show in October.

Check out my cousin's post here.

A Change in Plans

When Did I Download This was originally created as a way for my cousin and I to delve through our respective iTunes libraries and write a few words on each and every artist contained within. As a way to add some structure, my cousin took the alphabetical route while I went in the reverse. Well my cousin went MIA after a year and I've lost my way after two, and with the wheels falling off the blog's become a disorganized mess with little discernibility from anything else out there. In order to reinvigorate this little creation of ours I’m going to start from scratch with ‘A’, while using tumblr, with its perfect format for such a blog, as the host site. I plan on writing one primary entry a week, while sprinkling in the occasional artist picture, track, quote, etc. relevant to the main post.

Where Did I Download This has a new look, and I’m excited to get started again! I (We?) don’t have a ton of followers but this little blog has been growing. I know most of you tumble-heads don't want to read more than a few sentences so if you've made it this far I appreciate it.

Andy (Rich Alan)

Click here to view the original blogspot page.

Click here to view the story behind how we got started.

And click here for an awesome Kurt Cobain gif. Because Kurt Cobain gifs are rad.