Midpoint of 2006: Time to play catch up

A lot of really awesome stuff has been released this year that I’ve been too lazy/busy to review. Here are some of the year’s personal highlights I missed:

Ayumi Hamasaki – (miss)understood: This CD was packed with so many songs (16) and bonus material (a large photobook and DVD filled with music videos and behind the scenes footage) it was almost ridiculous. Ridiculously awesome. However, it failed to meet my expectations, bearing a sad stamp of quantity over quality. Plus, Sweetbox ruined it. Although I will say this; “is this LOVE?” is one of the greatest B-sides ever written and probably the greatest music video of all time. Also, I applaud Ayumi for staying true to her eclectic genre distribution ratio; it’s hard to believe the rock songs “alterna” and “(miss)understood” are nestled among “fairyland,” “In The Corner,” and “Beautiful Day.” But they are. And though I don’t necessarily love those frivolous pop songs, I love their presence. In the end, I’m half and half on this album although “rainy day” almost makes up for all of that as the beat ticks to the tune of years rolling down your cheeks in it beautiful sadness. Almost.

ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION – FANCLUB: More bad than good. Between the fantastic tracks “Angou no Waltz'” and “TIGHTROPE” lays a band that has reached the point of monotone redundancy. Most of the good songs were previously released singles so the new material didn’t really hold up. If I was a teacher I would give them a C. But I’m not, so I’ll give them a hug and another chance instead.

Lacuna Coil – Karmacode: Surprisingly, I still have not gotten around to buying this CD yet, so I don’t know what it sounds like. However, I did hear “Enjoy the Silence” and as a huge Depeche Mode fan, I was surprised to find it a very well done cover song. “Enjoy the Silence” is one of those songs that is so good, you couldn’t imagine anyone ever being able to redo it on the same level, but it’s pretty damn good and about five million times better than that sad In Flames cover, although between you and me, I refuse to acknowledge its existence. That particular cover is dead to me.

T.M.Revolution – UNDER:COVER: The last time I spoke of T.M.Revolution, I spoke of his dwindling career. The last I heard of him, he was performing at nerd-tastic anime cons in the United States and sporting two tones in his longish mane of hair that oh so subtly split down the middle of his hairline. I was all set to mock this man and make fun of my previous obsession with him and his music, but god damnit, then he put out this album, which could very well be the best cover album ever produced. Anyone can cover Beatles’ songs or Bloc Party songs, but who the Hell has the balls to cover their own songs? Takanori Nishikawa, that’s who. For this album, he basically went back to the dusty archives of his discography and remade old singles and popular songs with so much energy and soul, you can’t even really tell they’re old songs they so sound so fantastically new. And delicious. Mm mmm. From the hard rock of “Joker” (this was once a pop song?) to the simple piano backing of “THUNDERBIRD,” to the rock orchestrated “Yume no Shizuka” to all the other songs on this CD, the songs grab hold of you, and by George, they will not let go. Not that you would want them to. Taka, you have made me proud to be a fan once again. I will no longer mock you for singing at the anime cons. All is forgiven.

Mindless Self Indulgence – Straight To Video: Awesome, awesome single. I already wrote somewhat of their single in a previous article devoted solely to them, but it’s worth repeating; buy this CD if only to own that Birthday Massacre masterpiece of a remix. Sure, the tune gets redundant after a while and the song is so catchy it almost hurts, but among the many remixes of the title track lays precise and deliberate melodies that without their parent tune, would still be free-roaming, brilliant arrangements. Well done, my dirty, Mindless & co.

Dirty, derogatory lyrics never sounded so good: MSI

Straight To Video / Straight To Video (Dramaclub Remix)
2 Hookers & An 8-Ball / Bitches / Keepin’ Up With The Kids

Whenever I get access to a cable modem, I go crazy. Because I’m still living in the boondocks and subject to dial-up, I rarely chance to download more than a dozen songs a day…if I’m lucky and I leave the computer on all day. However, I have access to a lot more music. A lot more. So you can imagine that when I chance upon an internet connection that transfers up to 1 MB per second, I can do a whole lot of damage. The down side? Because I’m frantically clicking links and saving things, I usually have little knowledge of what I’m actually downloading until a day or so later, when I come back home and begin tagging and sifting through all of the stuff. It sounds like a lot of fun, and it most certainly is, but after a while, some of the songs start blending into each other. The Arcade Fire bleeds into The Still and No Trigger becomes Bad Religion with a new vocalist. Basically, this method truly separates the bad from the brilliant, the mediocre from the masterpieces. If a band or artist’s song shines out from the hundreds of other songs, it becomes special. It becomes loved. It can even become a potential runner-up for my Top Twenty Artist List.

That is exactly what happened when I first came across Mindless Self Indulgence. Shockingly enough, the first song I heard by them was a track off of their newly released Straight To Video: The Remixes single. It was simply titled “The Birthday Massacre (Dramaclub Remix).” I was intrigued. Hmm…well, I love The Birthday Massacre and this song seems to have something to do with that, let’s see what this is all about. I pressed play. Immediately, I was floored. The song opens with Atari sound bleeps, and eventually, the emergence of the synth composed splendor that The Birthday Massacre is famous for enters. And then the heavy, hard-hitting industrial beats enter and I almost fall off my chair. The song is absolutely, hands-down, life changing. That is the only way to describe it and probably the highest honor I can think of for describing a song.

It’s so simple in arrangement, yet complicated in its framework. The layers of dreamy, innocent synth melody, in addition to the dark, brooding vibe plus the guitars provide the exact juxtaposition that drew me into The Birthday Massacre in the first place. This song is so reminiscent of “The Dream,” it’s ridiculous. Not a bad thing at all.

At first I was confused by the song title until I did a bit of research and discovered that, no wonder it sounds exactly like The Birthday Massacre; it was MSI’s “Straight To Video” remixed by the band itself. Furthermore, when I saw what other bands remixed the song on the compilation (among them KMFDM, Velvet Acid Christ, and Assemblage 23), I was flabbergasted; where was I when this monumental, life altering album was released in March? Why had I not heard of this band before? Where could I get more?

Let me start off by saying that as I delved deeper in to the word of MSI, I realized why someone would be willing to hide this stupendous, experimental electronic punk techno metal industrial cornucopia of wonder away from the world; simply put, the lyrics. Pushing aside the lewd and sometimes downright disturbing stage antics put on by Jimmy Urine, the lyrics consist of a certain kind of smut you wouldn’t play outside of the private confines of your home or a very soundproof automobile. However, interspersed with what appears to be tongue in cheek parodies on the current state of hip hop and rap, the lyrics can also be thought provoking and if nothing else, senselessly amusing.

I think the whole concept of MSI is the fun they’re having with their sound and lyrics. There’s rarely any concrete structure to their music; most of the songs seem to have a flagrant disregard for solid composition and pattern. This makes for an interesting array of beats, rhythms, and resonances which, though random, are unique and innovative. The vocals pay homage to similar sentiments; from alto to fa;setto, from speed rap to melodic crooning, it’s truly an adventure with ups, downs, and everything in between.

Currently, though I skip between sampling the new songs I’ve gotten and tagging an endless stream of genres that mostly consist of patterned rock or pop or alternative or someone trying to sound like The Beatles (usually pegged ‘indie’), Mindless Self Indulgence is my current passion in heavy rotation. The feeling I got from hearing their songs are the same I got when The Birthday Massacre’s CD arrived in my mailbox back in October. They have moved into my Top Twenty List. Listen, swoon, applaud, and worship. Repeat.

Official Site