Underrated #1: Thoughts on Crush 40…

This is my second actual review, and who better than Crush 40? Truth be told, Crush 40 was the very first rock band I ever heard in my life at age 8, while playing on a friends “SEGA™ Dreamcast”. The game was called “Sonic Adventure”, the first game to feature their music as a band. Since then, they were the only band I knew for some time and followed up on them religiously. Since 2011, I’ve heard ALL of their songs from every album, and now I like a lot of things about them…

Anyway, most people I know have never heard of them (something I get a lot), and almost all of their songs have been created for OR featured in video games, except for their cover of “Fire Woman” (originally by the Cult), and some of their newer songs like “Sonic Youth” and “One of Those Days” and “Rise Again”.

Just a sample of their new material, which I’m not sure I’ll ever hear unless some clown uploads it on YouTube, but I decided to review some of their older work, which will be brief, since they only have two studio albums (A third compilation album).

Thrill of the Feel

The album was created for the video game Nascar arcade, when the band was known as “Sons of Angels” and just from the lyrics, the theme of the entire album revolves around racing, save their bonus track “Open Your Heart”. Crush 40 is very dedicated to staying on point when in comes to music, never deviating away from the primary element expressed in the video games. Jun Senoue even shows off his solo skills in “Star Sprinkled Banner”, “Rush Into The Crazy World”, “On the Road Again”, and “When the Sun Goes Down”.

This album was released in 2000, and it really came across as a film soundtrack. Whether or not it was an EP I’m not sure (Each track easily follows in suite with the next), but it easily earns Four Stars from me:

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Crush 40 (album)

It’s basically the same as thrill of the feel, but the Norwegian band “Sons of Angels” reunited, and the band had to change their name. So all the songs were shuffled onto the new album (Minus Jun’s amazing solos), and a new track “Live and Learn” came as the first track and two bonus tracks from the 2001 video game Sonic Adventure 2, “It Doesn’t Matter” by amazing singer “Tony Harnell” (TNT) and “City Escape” y the formerly mentioned artist and Danger Danger front man Ted Poley. The band line up is a bit different; Takeshi Taneda – bass guitar (“Live and Learn”, “Escape from the City”), and Katsuji – drums (“Live and Learn”, “Escape from the City”). Because these songs weren’t rewritten like they were on the album… I’ll give them a five, because “Live and Learn”, one of there most popular songs, was recorded after Johnny’s musical hiatus, showing no receding in vocal delivery, and the two bonus tracks, “It Doesn’t Matter” and “City Escape”, all show Jun’s remarkable skills as a sound engineer, a trait he’s proven time and time again since ’94. Great job there!

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The Best of Crush 40, Super Sonic Songs

This is their first (and only, as of 2012) compilation album. Ironically, it’s hardly a compilation album: Only five original songs appear on the album, and three songs are cover songs that Jun helped to compose for other Sonic games. It seems much more like an anniversary album to me. It includes many cool new songs from past Sonic games, like “I Am… All of Me” (Shadow the Hedgehog, 2005), “Never Turn Back” (Shadow the Hedgehog, 2005), “Sonic Heroes” (Sonic Heroes, 2004), “What I’m Made of” (Sonic Heroes, 2004), “Live Life” (Sonic and the Black Knight, 2009) “Knight of the Wind” (Sonic and the Black Knight, 2009) and a non-game track called “Is it You”, perhaps the fist love song from the bands Chronology.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Why five? Because I love their version of Fire Woman better (which is the main goal of a single: making it sound better than before), and they’re new material explores some new areas of rock. I Am has a darker metal riff, and so does Ungratify (another brilliant cover). And for the first time, they remixed “Open Your Heart”, to show that Johnny (vocally) still has it.

Criticism

The biggest criticism I have towards this band is their distribution. Most of the material from the band I’ve heard simply from playing the video games, and living in Canada, this music is not available in stores OR on Itunes. On top of that, Crush 40 has only done TWO live performance outside of Japan, at that was “Summer of Sonic” in London (2010), and Club Nokia. At least they were generous enough to post it on YouTube:

And Club Nokia is here:

Another thing: Why are almost ALL they’re songs for video games? Granted, Sonic the Hedgehog has high (and extremely loyal) fans (so loyal that they make up their own pseudo characters and actually believe that their real), so I guess that’s why they always manage to pack a crowd no matter where they go. But I’d love to see them branch out and expand their audience, because, minus Sonic, they still have amazing potential they doesn’t erode with time.  Still, the albums need to be made more available internationally, because if you think about it, some people might love them as a band, not just for the games Jun composes for. Although of course, that would only be getting about 1/6 of the total package, since Jun makes amazing background music for these amazing games.

Conclusion

Crush 40 is going to continue to surprise us. They haven’t pulled a Linkin Park on their fans (in other words, their music isn’t digital and drenched with auto-tune and other synthetic special effects as opposed to their older work).  Plus, they always bring their old songs to the plate at every show, never letting some of their classics go buried. And as I mentioned, they’re good at amplifying the story of the present event in the games their songs are featured in, like a movie soundtrack. Who knows what’s next? Maybe they’ll be Grammy nominated… or winners.

GOOD LUCK GUYS!

Advertisements

The Underrated List

I just feel like talking about the musicians that I feel are extremely underrated as singers or as a band, regardless of their craft. I guess maybe someone will see it and give them a listen. So this is really just to kill time.

I’ll only do ones for the bands I like…

Favorite singers (and why)

I’ve been trying to figure out for years which singers are my favorites, but I can’t seem to figure out which one I like the most. When I first started, I loved and was obsessed with Johnny Gioeli, convinced he was the best. But now that I’ve heard so many others since 2009, and I’m convinced that maybe I might have to reconsider. Not that Johnny sucks, but I’ve so many great people, and I can’t make a  final decision on who’s the best. And I like them all for different reasons.  So I decided to list these singers based on the time I discovered them:

Johnny Gioeli

He was the very first rock voice I ever heard. HE has powerful high pitched vocals, and can hit the low notes too. He’s the lead vocalist of THREE bands simultaneously (Hardline/Crush 40/Axel Rudi Pell). He’s of course, severely underrated. Also an amazing front man.

Tony Harnell

He has one of the highest vocal ranges I’ve EVER heard. His voice is amazing, and he was the lead vocalist for TNT for years until 2006, but even at his age he’s still one of the best. Too bad his albums are hard to get my hands on. Trust me, his vocal range is immensely high.

Ted Poley

Lead singer of Danger Danger. His vocal range isn’t that high, but his songwriting is brilliant. His voice is one of those memorable ones.

Miljenko Matijevic

He literally has the highest octave of any singer I’ve ever heard. INCREDIBLE. (He’s the lead singer of Steelheart, BTW)

Freddie Mercury

Come one now, that’s self-explanatory. You can’t love rock and hate Freddie. Lead Singer of Queen? Best singer of all time? Of course.

Chris Cornell

Too awesome. Temple of the Dog is one of my favorites of ALL TIME.

Jeff Keith

I’ll always love Tesla. Jeff never struggled with high notes despite his lower vocal range. Thank God he cleaned up from drugs.

Mike Tramp

I was shocked to find out that he was Danish, because he sang perfectly! White Lion fan forever. Thank God for YouTube, where I discovered them. Tramp is similar to Keith in how he sings, but his lyricism was much better yet severely underrated

Mike Szuter

I feel for this guy. His music was so down to Earth (I’m talking like he’s dead, LOL). But still, for his raspy singing voice, he’s amazing. Severely underrated. He was in the Szuters (vocals) Magna Fi (Vocals, rhythm guitar) and the Paul Gilbert solo (bass, occasional vocals). He may have been in Mr.Big, but I think I’m confusing him with Paul.

David Glen Eisley

The most Underrated singer of all. I mean, most people on know him from Spongebob (What a stupid show). But his deep voice is very unique and unmistakeable. Amazing.

Ronnie James Dio

Just incredible. He’s the best Heavy Metal Singer of ALL TIME (since Judas Priest anyway)

Phil Lewis

He has that unusual voice that you don’t expect much from, and then he shocks you with slick vocals (for a lack of a better word). L.A. Guns is one of my favorite bands.

Mark Slaughter

Too bad I discovered him late. It’s too bad. He’s amazing, and so is the band. High vocals too. Very excellent vibrato…

Danny Vaughn

They were too underrated, and Danny can still sing. Real awesome. I love it a lot. He’s a Master song writer as well.

Sebastian Bach

The best singer from Skid Row, which I love unconditionally. High vocals, without that screeching sound I hear some singers.

Joey Tempest

EUROPE! I love the way he sings, and he’s very versatile. Reminded me of Harnell the first time I heard him.

Tom Keifer

Cinderella blew me away the first time I heard them. Tom’s voice was literally unlike anything I’d heard. Too bad his voice was giving him trouble. I hope Cinderella has a good comeback. I love their music…and Tom’s vocals.

I’m always looking for new bands, and of course better singers. I wish I could pick my favorite.

 

 

Art of Dying: My thoughts on Vices and Virtues…

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of rock bands formed in the 2000’s. My heart goes back to the 80’s where Hair Metal bands ruled. That’s just my taste. And what’s funny is that I discovered Art of Dying by accident…

You know how YouTube has those annoying advertisements for crappy musicians and stupid skincare products. So as I braced myself for 14 seconds of agony, I saw one of the greatest things I’d ever see for years:

I’ll let you see it for yourself:

The Heavy drums (Jeff Brown) and guitars (Greg Bradley, Tavis Stanley), complete with perfect black-and-white cinematography and a wild lead vocalist (Jonny Hetherington) were everything I was looking for. I quickly scrambled for this “Vices and Virtues”, the album title, and finally made a purchase on Itunes after not seeing it in stores.

I’ve been meaning to write about them for a while, especially since “Let the Fire Burn” came out, so I’m gonna do it now.

First of all, The Album to me (overall), is literally the “Nevermind”, “Ten”, and “Appetite for Destruction” for the 2010’s. Every song is worthy of being a “Single”, and could literally be an anthem in it’s own right.

Lyrics:

The lyrics, despite being simple, have a much deeper meaning and at the same time are so down-to-earth (which is why I compare them to Nirvana, aside from the fact that their second album is by far the best), and anyone except Frankenstein can relate.

I didn’t really understand “Die Trying” at first, believing it was simply a pun off of their band name, until Jonny came forward in an interview about his father having cancer. Watching the music video (Jonny walking from his home all the way to what we can assume is California), it’s obvious that this band doesn’t just sing about what’s cute sounding, but they really echo what the bands been through (although I doubt Jonny walked ALL the way…) It’s like the “Welcome to the Jungle” or “Smells Like Teen Spirit” of the album.

“Get Through This” (or Get “Thru” This) is the second track, and the first of six tracks from the first eponymous album (2007) to appear on  Vices. This song is a REAL anthem, and I’ve read tweets where people say that it encouraged them throughout their daily lives. Also, this song is unique because it’s the albums shortest track, and has the simplest lyrics, yet still very meaningful (If I can get through this/I can get through anything/ If I can make it through this/ I can get through anything). How uplifting is that? (I work out to this song all the time). It really shows that this band isn’t to be taken lightly; very few songwriters can take simplicity and use it to mask complexity.

“Sorry” is the third track and the second longest. It opens up with a cool acoustic, before progressing into a soft rock… ‘explosion?’ But this song is very unique, and for TWO reasons: One, its deviates from the quintessential rock N roll lifestyle of booze, sex, and whatever we’ve seen already, to show a softer side (almost like the Sweet Child O’ Mine of Appetite, but darker). Also, it shows a more blatant fact: Art of Dying loves their fans! They actually constructed a compilation video of Fans holding up the sign “Sorry”, which can be seen or their YouTube… or below:

When was the last time a rock band has done something like this? Not often of course…

“Whole World’s Crazy” is an interesting track. It tells the story of young boy having life rough (He’s just a kid on the street/ Got it tough, trying to make ends meet), and a young girl with teenage pregnancy (She’s got a kid at thirteen/ He stole her innocence, fled the scene). Sentimental sounding, but Jonny unleashing is inner “Eddie Vedder”, with more aggressive vocals than even Die Trying. And the most memorable repetitive lyrics “Will I ever know his/her name?” It almost sounds like it’s coming from the perspective of an individual seeing the downward spiral of wayward youth (Something I do quite often, reminds me of that whole Mother Theresa perspective; conscience vs. compelling). Oh, and I love that slow down/ speed up they do right before the solo. A plus…

“Completely”… I’ve never known what to think of this song. This is the second song to make onto Vices from the first album, and it’s also the one song to be completely revamped (lyric wise). Either way… it’s my personal favorite song from their whole Chronology (It’s the main reason why I own Let the Fire Burn). At first, the song sounded like a dark, doom metal song minus the heavy Metallica-styled drums. But know it’s been remodeled to tell a more down-to-earth story of two people fine with breaking up. But the Chorus is amazing on both versions (Completely, Without me/What’s in your head, is on your hands/Completely, without me/ I over turned, I understand/Like an angel without wings/Or a song that never sings!) How much more awesome can a song get? The nu metal sounding solo is breathtaking, and the song has some of Jonnys highest vocals. An A plus!

“I Will be There” is that breath of fresh air, being much softer than most songs on the album. This is the third song from the AOD album to be revamped here, but the first time around it was more hard rock sounding. Of course, this rewrite (with some slight lyrical changes). Very sentimental, like a softer version of “Get Through This”…

“You Don’t Know Me” is the fourth AOD song on Vices, but that doesn’t mean that the song has lost its meaning. In fact, it’s one of the most meaningful songs on the album, one that I’m sure can be directed at one person in all our lives at the least ( You think you know me/ You think I care/ You should spend some time (sometime) with the person in the mirror). Now how true is that. Of course, I assume that as a rock star, people will always try and act as if they have you all figured out and always throw labels. Of course, that is completely irrelevant (unless your a groupie, I guess).

“Raining” is the fifth song to be taken from AOD, and this time it features Adam Gontier of the band Three Days Grace. Powerful song, almost echoing feelings of insecurity. Again, the down to Earth process reveals itself yet again ( I’m scared to look down/ Never been so high). At the same time, it could be just feelings of new rock-status (who knows). Brilliant song.

“Best I Can” is the longest track on the album, and it seems like how Jonny sings of not being perfect (Tonight I feel like the world won’t miss me/ So much to say but there’s no one listening) Yet formulates the chorus on a more positive note ( I am doing the best I can with everything I am/ Don’t you know nobody’s perfect/ Do you understand how hard I’m trying for you/ I am doing the best I can with everything I am/ Don’t you know I think you’re worth it) Very interesting song, and good manipulation of acoustic guitar…

“Straight Across My Mind” is pretty interesting, and it almost sounds either like the perspective of someone having a hard time letting go of a relationship ( The first time’s easy I could walk away/ But something in me makes me stay)( It’s like an obsession, an addiction/ You keep on running straight across, straight across my mind/ I’ll never look away/ It’s like the sun has opened up my eyes/ You’re straight across my mind). Sounds cheesy at first, but easy to connect to. Not one of my personal favorites from the band, but I guess these kinds of feelings resonate with most people. So at least they aren’t “out there” like DragonForce…

Yet for some reason, “Breath Again” almost comes across as  an echo or a follow up. ( When I hesitate I know it’s just too late to bring you back, but still I need you/ I can’t communicate the burden of this weight/ My world is black until I see you). But this song strongly reminds me of the song “Come As You Are” From “Nevermind”, because the lyrics directly contradict themselves ( I don’t know how, I don’t know when, but I can finally breathe again/ Life’s too short, the day’s too long/ In the end I knew it all along/ In the end I knew it all along/ I knew it all along). Kurt seems to do the same thing in the mentioned song, so who knows what direction Jonny was taking on this track.

Now of course, there are two songs that are only featured on the deluxe version. “Better Off” Follows in the steps of “Completely” somewhat, with the heavy rock tone, and “Watching You Watching Me” is actually the sixth song from AOD, originally entitled “Fists of Clarity”.

OVERALL: I loved the whole album. It has everything that’s missing in the music industry dominated by electro-pop, dubstep, underdeveloped popstars, and beliebers: Real Music. Original lyrics. And of course, being so new to rock music in 2011, Art of Dying helped me discover Seether and Three Days Grace. So I owe them that much. The band has a lot of creativity, and are one of the best Canadian bands I’ve ever seen. Hopefully I can find other bands like them with a longer discography.

Anyways, I’m aware that traditionally, critics (AKA people without jobs), usually give a certain amount of stars to the album, so….

★★★★★

I guess they earned that much. Good luck in the future…

 

To be honest, I really want my band to have the following:

Heavy Drumming (ie, Metallica, Nirvana, Kiss, etc)
Fast Guitars (occasionally) (ie, DragonForce, Paul Gilbert, Skid Row, Avenge Sevenfold, etc)
Power Chords (ie, Axel Rudi Pell, Black Sabbath, Dio, Iron Maiden, Metallica, etc)
High but Powerful Vocals (ie, Freddie Mercury, Miljenko Matijevic, Mark Slaughter, Danny Vaughn, etc)
Unique vocals (ie, Tom Keifer, Mark Slaughter, Tony Harnell, Robert Plant, etc)

I always a band that could cover different styles (Power Metal, Speed Metal, Nu Metal, Grunge, though VERY LITTLE OF THE LATTER)…
I personally loved Glam and Anthem rock the best. It was the best thing in rock history, just not image-wise.

I’ve been trying to play the guitar and piano today (for the first time) but it gets so boring so fast, especially when you’re not exactly motivated. Still…

I started trying to write song lyrics on the bus, but I’m really not impressed with them. Seriously. I never imagined that writing lyrics would be so hard. But I’ll keep trying. Besides, the melody is what I REALLY need to worry about.