Friday, May 20, 2016

Micro-Reviews, The - Artists Beginning with 'C'

Here's my next round of micro-reviews, containing all the artists in my list whose name starts with 'C.' I should point out that when I compiled the list, I put it in alphabetical order by not just the group name, but if it's an individual's name first and last, via that individual artist's first name. "Peter Gabriel" is in the 'P' section, not the 'G.' I just found it more straightforward that way, I guess.

Here I go.

The Cars (1976-1988)
This is a band that I find largely lighthearted in their musical approach. Their stuff is usually moderate-paced and somewhat easy-going. I like more than a couple of their songs, starting with 'Magic' (1984). I do like how the band can be versatile in their usage of guitar rock and synthy keyboards throughout their songs, so that they can sound like a traditional rock band ('Just What I Needed') or a soft New Wave ballad ('Drive.') Then there are songs that are right in the middle, such as 'Tonight She Comes,' 'You Are The Girl,' 'Magic,' etc. The band were around a decade older than most of their contemporaries during their heyday, spending their late twenties to the end of their thirties on the charts. I wish Benjamin Orr sung a little more than he did; Ric Ocasek was a lot more prolific and probably a little more marketed in general, making Orr something of a carefully-used treat you had to wait for. His vocals on 'Drive' have that emotional depth while he sounds young and carefree on 'Just What I Needed.' He died almost sixteen years ago, in October of 2000. He was only fifty-three. The Cars, minus Orr, continues today and has been since restarting in 2010 after years of Ocasek adamantly refusing any reunions.

Good Times Roll (1978)
One of what I'd call their 'feel-good' songs, largely with the larger-then-life refrain of 'good times roll!' This song starts in the chord of B major and largely stays there from beginning to end, moving a step down to A and another to G, The refrain bounces from E to its dominant, B, than down to the next E, an octave lower, on the bass. At the same time the chords of E major and D major are played to harmonize with the dominant B.
The title and premise of the song is simple, and I expect that it doesn't mean much other than letting things be what they are without worry. A carefree attitude, just to let the good times roll. There are also bits that sound anxious or uncertain, such as the bass's repetitive meander through B-E flat-E-E flat and back. Thanks to the guitar riffs, the synthed strings, and the general sound of the song, I get the impression and feeling that it sounds like something I would have heard played during an episode of That 70's Show. I wonder if I did. It does have a 70s rock sound to it.

Drive (1984)
This really differs from the song above. I don't know its musical progression, but I do know that it's a soft ballad that moves very slowly and sounds very sad. The model that features in the video for the song, the girl on the verge of tears, ended up pairing up with Ocasek. Good taste, I guess. Benjamin Orr wonders when the subject of the song will realize they're largely alone, and not in a good state. His voice is both outreaching and tender. I want to hope that he helps out whomever he is talking to, and 'drives them home' tonight. It's an emotional song that works, and it sounds full of depth. I say that because I've heard covers and they don't sound nearly as believable and raw as this does. Great emotional song that demonstrates the band's versatility.

Magic (1984)
This is likely the first song by them that I heard that made me look them up and take notice. The first song of theirs that caught my ears. It's simple: It's a catchy song. The keyboard is bright and appropriately wondrous-sounding. I haven't quite figured it out, but I know the basic structure of the song is a simple A-D-E, with a little extra E-F sharp-E picked low on the bass. It probably fits the definition of the simple catchy pop song really well, complete with lyrics about love and relationships. It is your typical Cars-style blend of naked guitar power chords with multiple different keyboard synths and riffs. One thing I find hinders the song's pace: The drum fills, which sound awkward and too eagerly added. They don't sound very cohesive, just random and played without too much prior thought to how they'd be executed. Not all of them are off, but I think that the band might have wanted to emphasize the big drum sound they created for the song, and they didn't execute it that well.
One other thing I want to mention is the music video. The band must have cast every single character they could find. There's a man on stilts, a crazy-looking bearded man, a portly guy who appears to be hungover, a mime, and two women that stand together at all times, in matching dresses, looking off into space and otherwise appearing nonchalant. They're rushing to gawk at Ric Ocasek, who is walking on the surface of a pool. Perhaps the idea was for the circus types to be the spectators. Reverse it so that a normal guy like Ocasek is now the attraction while the peculiar ones are the audience. It's just that they overdid the excitement and amazement to the point he's almost like Jesus walking among them, there to be touched and patted on the shoulder. Everyone takes a turn to leer or make a face at the camera for some reason. Expose their weirdness? I wonder if anyone noticed the mime on the diving board in the background as Ocasek passes the admiring queue. The sad thing is I used to imagine the video as the occasion of my birthday, and instead of all the people, the crowd was full of friends. A few in the video do actually look like a couple of them, and the two women reminded me of (now aforementioned) girl friends I both liked. As such they were my favorite characters in the video, because of how they looked, and that they didn't go crazy like everyone else. The video was filmed at the Hilton family's house in Beverly Hills, and Ocasek did get wet on the first take, thanks to the collapse of the plexiglass platform that stood in the pool.

Original Reviews (combined) of 'Magic' and 'Tonight She Comes'

Tonight She Comes (1985)
This is another typical-sounding Cars song with a blended use of keyboards and guitars. I recall that most of the reason I listened to it was thanks to the redhead that featured in the video thumbnail on YouTube. The song turned out to be good enough in the end, though when I think about the redhead now, I feel that the video put her up on a pedestal somewhat while simultaneously making her appear to act like a little girl here and there, which I don't particularly like in regards to my personal taste. But she's still kind of cute. I liked the simple progression of F-C-G-B flat. Wikipedia says it's in F major. Probably. I like that and its Cars-like sound, complete with backing voices, an element they employed in virtually all of their songs. A couple of things I don't like: The accentuated guitar power-hits during the big guitar solo. Unnecessary. Some of the higher-pitched keyboard synths make it sound too decadent. But otherwise, a good enough song.

You Are The Girl (1987)
Original Review
I heard this at Wal-Mart. I was attracted to what appeared to be a sustained A note on a keyboard. If I were you, I wouldn't really go and read my original review - reading it myself, it's embarrassing how much I talk about personal experiences that made me relate riffs in the song to them, or excited words about how notes make me see 'my face.' It would have been so much easier to write that particular notes such as the sustained A gave me personal self-reflections that were nice. I was determining that that musical note was what I personally related to the most at the time.
This song is in exactly the same vein as all the others aside from 'Drive' and 'Good Times Roll,' though the reason I like it is different. It's a combination of lyrics and timing. I finally determined enough of the song to be able to look it up the same night I was experiencing emotional let-down thanks to one of those aforementioned girl friends, who worked in the same building. The song came at the right time. "Why don't you dream anymore? What's in the way?" "Why don't you talk anymore? What did I say?" As I did manage to mention, I like the additional voices adding to certain lyrics, such as the 'why don't you stay for awhile?' line. Altogether, they make the words sound refined.
I failed to mention in my original review (as I would have at the time) that this song notably uses a moterik beat. The bass drum drives the every note except for the 2 and 4, which falls to the snare drum: _ _ - _ _ _ - _. 1-&-2-&-3-&-4-&. I first heard about such a rhythm when I read up on both a Wikipedia article and a separate magazine article on the Devo song 'Whip It,' which is incorrectly stated to have a moterik beat (it has a constant beat: 1-&-uh-2-&-uh-3-&-uh-4-&-uh). The bass is constant on only the quarter notes - 1-2-3-4 - no additions on the &s or uhs, while the snare is again on 2 and 4. Maybe the tight hi-hat rhythm confused everyone, as it plays every note save for the snare, but again at a constant rate, with an open hi-hat on 1 and 3. The idea behind the moterik beat, including its name, is that the beat 'drives' you through the song on the bass drum. 'You Are The Girl' is a good example of that.

The Chemical Brothers (1989-Present)
What I know of the Chemical Brothers is limited, but I would think it would be right to say that they are probably part of a group of pioneers of the 1990s that made house and big beat music popular - pioneers along with Fatboy Slim, Moby, and others. I also happen to know that they are English, and that they started out by calling themselves the Dust Brothers until an already established music production duo with the same name put a stop to that. The two who had claimed the name first had done so four years prior, and like the Chemical Brothers, they produced acts that sampled music. They also happened to produce Middle of Nowhere by Hanson in late 1996, which turned into an enormous breakthrough success for the three teenagers on the cover. In terms of The Chemical Brothers, I happen to know them thanks to the music video for 'Let Forever Be.'

Let Forever Be (1999)
I think I saw the video first, in a program about influential or notable music videos regarding their visual effects or creativity. This one happened to pop up. I think it actually serves as the main influence behind a clip video I created seven years ago while in high school. It's still on YouTube. I need to take it down or make it invisible. It's embarrassing for me to watch now because it looks so silly and amateur - and it uses 'In The City' by Madness, which just exacerbates that. Regarding this music video, it uses a lot of really neat visual transitions from on-location settings featuring a female character to studio-based choreography featuring duplicates of the character. A drummer also shows up here and there, sometimes mirrored, and by the end the woman's alarm clock has magnified hugely.
In terms of the song itself, it's an interesting bit of sound. I describe it that way because it comes off as an experiment in sound production rather than musical harmony. The backing drums are a good accompaniment. The song almost sounds like something you'd hear in a video game, in terms of the lower sounds. Oasis frontman Noel Gallagher sings the lyrics, which sound dreamy and distant but also versatile. "How does it feel like to spend a little lifetime sitting in the gutter? Scream a symphony."


Chicago (1967-Present)
All I have to say about these guys is that I like one of their songs, and that's about it. They sound good in general, but I don't have enough interest. The band features as a background running joke on the main character of the film Clear History, and they also appear in the film.

25 Or 6 To 4 (1970)
This song starts out very interestingly and continues that way, though I don't like the ending too much as its reliance on all the horns reminds me of the sounds of 70s TV show themes - particularly M*A*S*H. But I like the chorus and the very simple subject matter: Should I keep doing what I'm doing despite the time? The song's title is a ponder at whether it's 3:35 or 3:34 in the morning, and the question is whether to continue to try to write or go to bed. I often have that dilemma when I write my journal, or write on here - particularly as I write these micro-reviews, which is normally done in the early hours of the morning. It's currently 10 to 2am.
The band fuse horns with rock really well, in much the same way Electric Light Orchestra fused strings with rock during the same period. Why do I like this one song by them? I guess I like the sound of the vocals, the progression and the fast-paced rhythm. 'Saturday in the Park?' Kind of boring to me. Appropriate sound for the subject matter, yes, but boring for my ears.

Chilliwack (1970-1988)
Another Canadian band, this time from the west coast, namely Vancouver. I moderately like them for a song or two, and that's about it. While it's not on my list, I like the musical progression and sinister sound of 'Secret Information' (the verses).

My Girl (Gone, Gone, Gone) (1981)
When I looked up the music  video, it appeared to be taken from a program of music videos of songs named 'My Girl,' because for a split second you can see a shot of Chas Smash of Madness drinking tea in the final scene of the music video for the Madness song 'My Girl' before it cuts to the introduction of 'My Girl' by Chilliwack.
This isn't a very happy-sounding song, but it's very hopeful. The music sounds bleak and hopeless, and makes me think of the sun having just set extremely early on a frigid winter's afternoon. Yet you're still in the mostly empty office with lots of work still to do. However, I like it because of the hope exhibited in the lyrics, and the refrain of 'gone gone gone she's been gone so long...' After the first verse, which has wound itself up into a climax of music and vocals, it suddenly falls apart, stops...and then the vocal refrain immediately re-starts. It's quite funny to listen to at first. But this vocal refrain ends up building up the final coda of the song. It's interesting.

Chumbawumba (1980-2012)
These guys are probably the most radical group on my list. The band, which had all sorts of people come and go, have deep anarchic roots, preferring to do what they want without much regard for any kind of system or authority. They spent all of their early years gigging at minor things as a sort of rag-tag group of instrumentalists with various stances on issues. Only when they finally signed with a major record company - EMI - in 1997, finally choosing an option that was financially plausible while receiving the potential to reach a major audience (and simultaneously alienating all of their anti-corporate, anti-systematic supporters, contemporaries, and following) did they make a mark on the charts. And while they did release further singles afterwards, I haven't knowingly heard any of them but for their first breakthrough hit, which I'll write about below.

Tubthumping (1997)
This has to hold the notability as the very first song I heard on the radio that I actively liked and looked forward to hearing. Sure, there was what turned out to be 'Gangsters Paradise' which I kind of liked when I first heard it at a young age, but this was a song I really wanted to hear. I remember when I first heard it. I spent my summer being watched by my friend's mother, who was a neighbour, and one of the routines of the later afternoon was driving to Nortel in Kanata to pick up my friend's dad from work. I'd hear it on the car radio during these commutes, in the back seat with my friend. I guess I liked the refrain: "I get knocked down. But I get up again. You're never gonna keep me down." When I think about it, the family that babysat me was highly religious, at least the mother, and considering the potential tone or lyrical suggestions the song could hold for that sort of mindset, I'm kind of impressed she didn't change the channel or turn it off.
The song uses a basic musical structure for the refrain - D major to G major, over and over, on guitar and keyboard, and then a simple E minor, G major, D major and A major for the little 'Danny boy' verses. I've taken the song apart, and it's interesting. Lyrically it appears to be about sitting in a bar virtually all the time, living life as an alcoholic. On the other hand, the title apparently refers to sensationalizing politicians. I like the Arm & Hammer-influenced cover art. The trumpet is a sorrowful, but relevant, addition.

Citizen King (1993-2002)
This band, like a lot of the others in this list, was a one-hit wonder. They had their song 'Better Days (And the Bottom Drops Out)' and that was it. It was fronted by its bassist.

Better Days (And the Bottom Drops Out) (1999)
I liked this song when it played on the radio when I was eight. It just sounded catchy, and it still does now, though it has its derivative progression to thank for that. Most songs use this progression in D minor, but they upped it to E minor. E-D-A. However, this song uses scratch and sound effects, with the choruses always dissolving on this keyboard effect. I liked the unusual sound they used during the second verse. I don't know what it is. It just sounds different and interesting. It made me laugh many years ago. The acoustic guitar is nice. It sounds appropriately uninterested. The one thing I don't like is the very random "I've been a star of many plays" line in the chorus. It doesn't work to me. It sounds like something used for the sake of rhyming with 'days.'

Coldplay (1996-Present)
I kind of wonder why they're called "Coldplay." It sounds somewhat different to all the typical band names I've seen. I don't particularly listen to them, but 'Clocks' did make an impression on me. Other than that, I've heard their other song, the one with the interminable string rhythm (I forget what it's called) and I've seen the music video for their single 'The Scientist' (largely because it plays entirely in reverse) but nothing else they've done has appealed to me than the one song they came out with in 2002.

Clocks (2002)
I think I like it for the same reason everyone else likes it: Its piano arrangement. The progression and arrangement is extremely simple and only makes up three chords. It sounds so bright yet only the first chord is a major, the second two limited and sad-sounding minors.
The exact style and way it's played goes like this: The first chord is played in its second inversion, the second in its third, and the last in its first, and they're played broken, in a descending manner from the tonic of the first (E flat major), the mediant of the second (B flat minor) and the dominant of the third (F minor). This descending rhythm is played twice per chord, and broken off halfway on the third round of the first and second chords (the F minor plays a whole three times). It's really that simple, even if my long sentences don't make it seem that way. Furthermore, the bassist does a nice compliment by ascending to the second note rather than descending as the piano does.
Lyrically, I'm not entirely sure what the vocalist is trying to get across, unless the song is really just about letting things go. I don't know. I get the impression there's romance in there, probably longing. It just happened to be the song the DJ decided to put on when a girl in my class prompted a dance with me that she'd asked for minutes earlier, causing me greater discomfort than I already felt as we held each other's shoulders - this was a song I liked and I was with a girl! This was an end of school dance. I was finishing grade six. Too shy and awkward and not nearly confident enough at pairing with someone, a nice girl did it for me, just as a song I felt embarrassed to listen to and like started. The dance lasted half a minute. I couldn't look her in the face and to help I kept repeating the phrase "I can't wait to tell Duncan." She very quickly suggested I go ahead and do that. I haven't really danced with a girl since. Probably a good thing. As for my brief dancing partner, she's happily married these days, and living far away from here.
Clocks is a good song, though I do wish it could be, at least in my eyes, perhaps good for more than just its piano and to a much lesser extent its bass. It's a happy song for a second. The rest is melancholy.

Counting Crows (1991-Present)
Nothing to say here, other than I kind of like the lead singer's voice.

Mr. Jones (1993)
I like this song for its well-executed style and lyrics. It just sounds well-done. You get a lot of minor chords throughout, though it sounds happier on the chorus. The lyrics are well-written and well sung. I love how the singer changes the refrain in each chorus: "Mr. Jones and me tell each other fairy tales" "Mr. Jones and me look into the future" "Mr. Jones and me stumbling through the barrio," etc. The lyrics make me think of me and a friend of mine to some extent, particularly in terms of looking at girls. That's about it; my guitar is black and white, not grey, and while I want to record music, most of it is for the record of my ideas and creativity rather than 'seeing myself staring back at me' on the television. Apparently, it was written with a real-life Mr. Jones, who was a bassist in another band separate from the Counting Crows, in mind.

Hanginaround (1999)
Very nice guitar in this one. It sounds deep at first, while the bass, when it comes in, sounds exactly the opposite, extremely bright. It has a catchy progression. I haven't heard it in awhile. I recall the music video - the vocalist waits for a bus and lets all pass until a cute woman shows up to wait with him. One particular scene I remember is a shot of the rest of the band smiling through one of the bus windows. It looked kind of funny to me. There's a nice piano in it too, and it ends with everything either stopping, fading out, or just falling apart. Another part of the attraction is just the singer's voice, which I've mentioned. I don't really know what else to say about this song. No real negatives. It's nice to hear the snare drum without any snares on it once in a while.

The Cult (1983-1995)
I have nothing to say about them other than their lead singer looks like an older woman who works in the dry foods section at work (at least he did in the 80s).

Rain (1985)
Original Review
I heard this on a music channel on TV. It just sounded welcoming to hear. But, as I mentioned for 'Better Days' above, it uses a derivative progression - the exact same one - and, like everyone else, on D minor. But the guitarist found a way to be creative with his instrument, so there is something refreshing there, and it sounds somewhat rejoicing to me, which I also like. I admire the idea of a beautiful woman embodying rain, as I also like rain, albeit on a hot sunny day, in refreshing bursts, or the soothing sound of it at night. But there are very obvious things I dislike, largely visual things. I'd simply say don't watch the music video, as there are repetitive close-ups of a mouth pouring saliva on a microphone. And as I mentioned, the singer reminds me of an older woman I know at work. That's specific to me, but I'm sure other people may find he looks effeminate. Apparently, the band don't find this song to their liking very much. I wonder why. Either way, in some of its lyrics and its rejoicing guitar, it does sound refreshing in its way.

The Cure (1976-Present)
These British guys were probably one of the obvious examples of New Wave Gothic style. I only know one of their songs, and I'm glad I do. I think they have a very recreational attitude towards recording, which helps their creativity and performance. My paternal aunt once knew, or met, lead singer Robert Smith. I can't remember exactly, but there's no reason not to believe her.

Feels Like Heaven (1987)
Original Review
Song De-construction
This is a great song right from the introduction. It's a nice build up starting from drums, bass guitar, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, keyboard synths, and lead guitar line (vocals finally starting after). One thing I originally thought was that the lead guitar notes, the descending line of happy notes, is actually played by the same guitar that plays the deeper melodies that are constant throughout the song. Overall, it's this guitar melody that makes me love its sound. Not to mention that in the proper recording the electric guitar stays on one channel while the acoustic keeps to the other, as if their players are on either side of you. It's in A major - a rare thing, a major - and it's something I easily relate to personally based on the progression and the notes used, and the melody. Lyrically, it appears to be about nostalgia, the happy memories of the early stages of a relationship, which are based on singer Smith's memories of his courtship with his wife. These memories are particularly routed in the setting of the Beachy Head cliffs, and the music video is appropriately set there. The music sounds joyful, happy, endearing and, in places, kind of sad in its nostalgia. I just think the gentle guitar melody is beautiful.

Well, those are my reviews of artists whose (first) names start with C. There were far less, thankfully, and it wasn't as hard and prolonged as all the B-named bands/artists. I will come around with my 'D' reviews, for which there are only nine artists. For that I can be somewhat thankful. This was written over several evenings. Moving on.

Red Cloud
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