It’s New to Elliot: as suggested by Josh Zamzow

I’ve known Josh since at least the 3rd grade, so we’ve seen each other go through many…phases, let’s say. Josh was never into punk like my close friends, but he was into good music regardless, and we always thought he was extremely cool and chill. The summer of 2000 found Josh and I hanging out almost every day, which is strange because that previously had never happened, and it didn’t really happen after that. It was just this mutually agreed upon thing that most days I was going to go to his house where we would eat ridiculous amounts of Burger King and Dairy Queen and drink way too much pop, Josh’s grandma would yell at us, we would watch pro wrestling and look at crazy things on the internet, and show each other music that we usually didn’t like (he definitely was the first person to ever play me Slipknot). My only explanation for that summer going down like that is because we got along swimmingly (oh, and also because we had no girlfriends. That might have played a part too).

Josh now works with computers in a job I couldn’t possibly describe, but probably pays him very well. I really should have gotten into computers at a young age — maybe I wouldn’t be getting paid averagely and getting humiliated on 7th graders’ Snapchat accounts. Josh has always been intensely passionate about music, and even when I didn’t like stuff he showed me, I was appreciated his enthusiasm. Let’s see if that enthusiasm is enough to get me to like some stuff I usually hate.

Pink Floyd — Animals

I have been known to take some unnecessarily bold stances on certain things, such as not drinking alcohol until I turned 30. Seriously, what the hell was that about?

I kid, my straight edge friends! All is good. I just think beer and liquor and wine are super tight now. Let’s still be pals.

But what I do get obnoxiously stubborn about can sometimes be my dismissal of bands that everyone likes. Pink Floyd is a prime example. A few years ago when I finally gave Dark Side of the Moon a chance, I despised it. I could hardly find anything good to say about it, other than that “Money” is pretty good, but everyone else thinks that’s the worst song on the record, so I was still wrong. I guess I was always struck by Pink Floyd’s inherent wussiness. They are so wussy, it’s ridiculous. They try to be deep and brooding and apocalyptic, but they’re just these weinery British guys who messed around and sold gajillions of records seemingly for no reason other than people enjoying the consumption of drugs while listening to them.

But I have been told by several reliable sources that I would enjoy Animals, and this week Josh provided me the reason to finally give Pink Floyd a little more of my time. I’m happy to report that I didn’t hate it. Animals is far less spacey and druggy than Dark Side, though the bulk of the record is spacey in nature — three songs at 17 minutes, 11 minutes and 10 minutes. This does result in some jamming and repetition, but the feel of these songs is much more immediate and pulsating. These songs sound vital, rather than sleepy. They get gritty, not floaty. I still got a little bored at times, and I still don’t think I’ll ever enjoy the vocals of David Gilmour or Roger Waters, but if I can listen to a Pink Floyd record and not get pissed off, then Josh should consider that a victory.

My Opinion: 6/10

Ghost — Meliora

Perhaps you’ve seen Ghost: five hooded figures known as “Nameless Ghouls” led by a Pope-like guy in skeleton paint. They’re all completely anonymous, which is a rare feat these days. When you look at them and see their aesthetic, it’s undeniable that they’re really cool. They must be really wicked black metal or something, right?

Nope. Not at all. This is Showtunes metal. Metal on Broadway. Musical Theater metal. Whatever it is, this is cheesy as hell. It is the softest metal one could imagine — nothing hits hard, everything is very politely sung in a non-threatening manner. The riffs are okay but rarely anything special. Silly keyboard/organ playing makes everything even more hilariously theatrical than it already was due to their stage show. The music isn’t awful, but it sure isn’t good. I can see no reason why anyone would like this band if they didn’t look the way they look. What could there possibly be to enjoy if they were just five Swedish guys? They would get laughed out of the building. Cool looks don’t count towards musical quality.

My Opinion: 4/10

Blackalicious — Blazing Arrow

Until today I had no idea that Blackalicious got a sudden rush of fame a couple years ago when Daniel Radcliffe rapped one of their verses on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show. Do not let that previous sentence fool you into thinking they’re similar to a wispy British guy, or a smiling idiot who doesn’t know how to process his emotions without lip syncing to a pop song and playing a toy xylophone. Blackalicious is the absolute real deal, and I feel like an absolute fool for having taken so long to hear them. This is the type of hip-hop I’m always craving. It hits very hard and moves along at a brisk pace, but when it slows down it maintains that same high voltage. Gift of Gab has to be among the ten best rappers I’ve ever heard, and I’m saying this only knowing one of their records. He can rap in quick staccato bursts, in ceaselessly flowing lines, or more thoughtfully drawn out statements. The beats do what I love: recall old soul and funk sounds with an ear toward the modern age. The record is 74 minutes, and though I normally would get mad about that, there is little time to get bored because very few songs sound alike.

In a week when Drake played my hometown and sold out an arena with his pathetic sing-rap nonsense, I needed this record to remind me that my taste is correct, and everyone else’s is wrong.

My Opinion: 8/10

Dredg — The Pariah, the Parrot, the Delusion

I cannot stand it when a band sounds like they’re in love with themselves. Dredg are one of those bands who think they’re making a masterpiece that will change the way humans think about music. The Pariah, the Parrot, the Delusion is a title that should tell you all you need to know: they’re so confident that you’re going to love this incredibly high-brow concept record that they use the word “parrot.” But it’s not going to change the world, unless you consider it a revolutionary act to rip off that awful band Muse. This is a bunch of bunk-ass garbage dressed up with the robes of prog rock, metal and every bell and whistle these guys can think of. The singer’s voice is super smooth and clean with not a hint of real emotion or substance. It’s actually his voice that drives the band into the lane that no one wants to accidentally find themselves: Christian rock. They just sound like a Christian band trying to push their sounds to the heavens, but even God would knock that shit back down and tell them to try harder.

My Opinion: 3/10

The 13th Floor Elevators — The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators

Here’s yet another band I’ve heard about for years and years but never bothered to check out. Maybe the psychedelic tag scared me off, but as we’ve discovered here in recent months, that term can often equate to “kinda drugged-out rock’n’roll.” When it’s that, I’m in, and 13th Floor Elevators are that. Coming from Austin, Texas in 1966, these guys were keeping Austin weird way before anyone knew what that could mean. Roky Erickson was the manic frontman whose voice changes from song to song yet always sounds like him. It’s a more diverse, relaxed version of The Sonics (peers of theirs at the time), but it’s still garagey and rockin’. I’m into it.

My only complaint is that one of the record’s most psychedelic elements is this dumb “doodle-doodle-doo” noise that I can only guess is a noise made by plucking on a completely muted guitar string. This noise happened in the first song and I was like, “Well, surely that will go away now.” And then it just keeps happening in THE WHOLE TIME. It’s unbelievably irritating. The producer should have been doing better quality control rather than just letting Roky Erickson run into the booth during every song and yelling, “THIS SONG NEEDS THAT DUMB NOISE AGAIN. YOU’RE WELCOME, EVERYONE.”

My Opinion: 7/10

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