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Classic Albums

CA37 R.E.M. – Monster (Part 2)

In part two of our two part look at the career of alternative icons R.E.M. we consider posit that the bands 9th studio album, 1994’s Monster, is actually worthy of inclusion in our list of Classic Albums. 

Determined never to repeat themselves, R.E.M. regrouped in 1993 to start work on the follow up to the multi-platinum selling Automatic for the People with the goal of making a loud, raucous rock record and to head out on the road for their first tour in six years. Best laid plans were severely tested in the making of Monster, as the relationship with the band members fell to an all time low, the deaths of close friends River Phoenix and Kurt Cobain severely affected the mindset of Stipe and, with the band being as close as they would ever get to legitimate mainstream celebrities, their relationship with fame confused and unsettled them. The result is an album of confusing, arch, ironic playfulness, that eschews the heart on sleeve approach of Automatic for the People for an album that is often brilliant and often unbalanced, but always interesting, as R.E.M. fucked with their own formula maybe more than they ever have or would. The critical reaction was one of confusion, the fan reaction was one of disappointment, but, 25 years plus down the line, does Monster actually stand up a great record that has been unfairly maligned and misunderstood? Spoiler…. Steve thinks so. 

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Classic Albums

CA37 R.E.M. – Automatic for the People (Part 1)

In the first part of our two part Classic Album Special, we look at the 8th album from Athens, Georgia alternative rock megastars R.E.M., 1992’s Automatic for the People.

After a decade in the US indie underground R.E.M. had achieved a significant mainstream breakthrough after signing to Warners and releasing 1988’s Green and 1991’s Out of Time albums. The latter turned the band into near household names with the success of Losing My Religion, so when they came to record a new album they did so with the pressure of following up a legitimate smash hit. As if that wasn’t enough the musical landscape had been changed hugely with the success of Nirvana’s Nevermind, which made the alternative rock of a band like R.E.M. now the hottest sound in music. But, rather than copy the previous album or try and incorporate the sounds of bands that they themselves influenced, R.E.M. stood staunchly to the belief that their own artistic vision was all that mattered. That vision was to lean on their own sense of mortality as frontman Michael Stipe suffered a series of losses in his personal life and wrestled with feelings of grief and thoughts of his own mortality. It resulted in a record that is slower, more melodic, grander and thematically more reflective than anything that was happening in music at the time. Despite the risks, Automatic for the People would go on to become an even bigger success than any of their previous material, spawning a series of hit singles that remain staples of mainstream rock to this very day.

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Classic Albums

CA35 Joy Division – Closer

For this week’s Classic Album podcast we take a look at one of the most significant, if short lived, careers of any band of the last 4 decades, as we try and reach beyond the story and mythology of Joy Division’s second and final studio album Closer from 1980.
It’s a name that everyone knows, but just how important are Joy Division? We look at their lasting impact on the Manchester scene, from the birth of Factory Records, their groundbreaking and fractured work with producer Martin Hannett on their debut album Unknown Pleasures, the illness and depression of frontman Ian Curtis that cast a shadow over the band, the recording of the record, Curtis’ tragic death before the records release, the reaction to them after his passing and the success of Love Will Tear Us Apart. All coming before Closer had even been released to the general public. So, what exactly are Joy Division? A short lived hyped band, famous only for one song and the circumstances surrounding the cult of their iconic lead singer? Or a genuine one off band who made unique, unusual, honest and widely influential material that continues to inspire bands way beyond the confines of the early 80’s post-punk bubble to this very day? We discuss it all here.
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Classic Albums

CA34 Neil Young – After the Gold Rush

Sweet Ham Alabama(!) it’s a new Classic Album podcast and on this particular episode, Remfry goes in deep on his oldest album covered on Classic Albums thus far, 1970’s After the Gold Rush, the third full-length studio ‘solo’ album by Canadian / American musician Neil Young. It is one of four high-profile albums released by each of the members of folk rock collective Crosby, Stills Nash & Young in the wake of their chart-topping 1970 album Deja Vu. The album consists mainly of country folk music, along with the rocking “Southern Man”, inspired by the unproduced Dean Stockwell-Herb Bermann screenplay After the Gold Rush.

Remfry and Steve go through all 11 songs from the album individually as well as discussing the long lost screenplay that two of the songs from this album were inspired by. We also discuss Young’s history in bands before this album, the Skynrd/Young ‘feud’ and esoteric lyrics to the title track that have stumped fans for the past 50 years. Neil Young is an absolutely phenomenal talent, and this 2-and-a-half hour deep dive into one of his best works will tell you why.

Available over on patreon.com/riotactpodcast.

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Classic Albums

CA33 Morbid Angel – Altars of Madness

On this week’s Classic Album podcast we take our first tentative steps into the world of extreme metal, as we look at Altars of Madness, the debut full length record from Floridian death metal legends Morbid Angel. 

Released on the 12th of May 1989, Altars… represents something of a full stop for a metal scene that was in the process of obsessing over outdoing itself in terms of speed, ferocity, gruesome imagery and brutality. We look at the birth of the band, and how they could have been considered one of the first names in death metal had their original debut album back in 1986 not sat on the shelf for 5 years, the sound that set the band apart from their peers and, even more tellingly, the lyrical inspiration from the infamous Necronomicon book that the members of Morbid Angel obsessed over. Before delving into the record itself and looking at the aftermath of death metal, and discussing whether Altars of Madness set a bar for death metal that was so high that it immediately helped to contribute to its creative downfall.

Available over on patreon.com/riotactpodcast.

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Classic Albums

CA32 The Mars Volta – Deloused In The Comatorium

Released on June 24, 2003, Deloused in the Comatorium is the debut album from The Mars Volta, the progressive salsa latin jazz art punk collective spearheaded by ex-At The Drive-In members Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez Lopez. An album quite unlike any other, Deloused in the Comatorium was released into a world where progressive music was just beginning to seep it’s way into the public consciousness again, what with the likes of Tool’s Lateralus, Opeth’s Blackwater Park and the gigantic success of Muse paving the way for making the term ‘prog’ legitimate again. But Deloused in the Comatorium followed no preconceived notions of formula or commercial enterprise. Instead, the project was born out of De Facto, a dub/reggae/electronica hybrid that Bixler-Zavala and Rodriguez-Lopez used to jam with after At The Drive In shows alongside Isaiah ‘Ikey’ Owens and Jeremy Michael Ward (cousin to ex-At the Drive-In / current Sparta guitarist Jim Ward).

De Facto gradually metamorphosed into The Mars Volta and one of the most forward-thinking modern ‘rock’ acts was born onto the world. Despite its far from commercial sound, Deloused in the Comatorium featured extensively on a wide range of Album of the Year lists including Q, Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, NME, Spin, Drowned in Sound, Mojo and Terrorizer, effectively picking up accolades from every major guitar music publication in the UK. We trace the lineage back to the musicians that influenced the band, discuss the tragic circumstances that inspired the album and deliberate over how The Mars Volta have inspired a whole scene to push boundaries and innovate beyond the usual musical formulas and templates.

Available over on patreon.com/riotactpodcast.

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Classic Albums

CA31 Soundgarden – Down On The Upside (Part 2)

For the second part of our double Classic Album series podcast we take a look at the follow up to Soundgarden’s monolithic Superunknown; 1996’s Down on the Upside. Whilst grunge was in its commercial pomp back when their previous album was released, it’s a very different story in this part of the story. In the aftermath of Kurt Cobain’s death, and with pop-punk and Brit-pop the new fashionable genres to name check, Soundgarden were sitting ducks in 1996 purely for the crime of coming from Seattle.

We look at the build up to the record, and the effect that the disintegration of the Seattle scene had on the band, before tackling the album itself and then looking at the, frankly fucking embarrassing reaction from a sneering, lazy music press to the album. But, it matters not, because 25 years after the release of Down on the Upside the songs on the record still stand up as some of their best, and definitely most underrated work.

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Classic Albums

CA31 Soundgarden – Superunknown (Part 1)

We’ve resisted covering some BIG albums on Classic Albums over the year or so that we’ve been putting these out but one area we simply couldn’t resist dipping our toe into any longer was the Seattle Grunge (not a genre) scene. And in typical Riot Act fashion, we start with an album which is about as far away from the ‘typical’ grunge sound as you can get.

In this first part of a two part special, we look back at Superunknown, the 4th (or 5th) album by Soundgarden. Remfry leads the chat and states his case for Superunknown being not only an undeniable classic but pretty much one of the best records of all time (and there’s little disagreement from Steve). Released on 8th March 1994, Superunknown was an expansive, experimental smorgasbord of sound that explored a rich tapestry of psychedelia, stoner rock, crooner vocals and doom-laden riffs, an album which takes a Black Sabbath mixed with The Beatles approach as its starting point(!) and twists that idea into ever more exploratory and fascinating territory.

Universally lauded upon its release, Superunknown was released at a strange time for the scene that the band had sprung from. As George Garner put it so eloquently in his retrospective feature on the album for Kerrang!, “Soundgarden were the first of the big grunge acts to sprout and yet the last to bloom.” This had advantages and disadvantages and with the death of Kurt Cobain exactly 4 weeks after Superunknown was released, the tide was beginning to turn in the press and audience’s interests. But Soundgarden easily transcended the term grunge for those who weren’t blinded by trends and Superunknown is a rich banquet of delights which will endure forever.

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Classic Albums

CA30 Ben Folds Five – Whatever and Ever Amen

It’s the 30th artist to be inducted into our list of Classic Album, and we’ve gone slightly left of centre this time, as we speak about 1997’s Whatever and Ever Amen, the second studio album from North Carolina’s kings of piano led power pop Ben Folds Five.

We start by looking at that rarest of modern rock instrument; the piano. Where has it gone? What is its relationship with rock music? Why didn’t we see classic honky tonk piano in alternative rock? We try and answer that before delving into the career of Ben Folds Five, one of the most unique and idiosyncratic artists of the 90’s, looking at their stubbornness to conform to what was cool, their success with Brick and trying to re-evaluate the band today to see if they are truly an underrated and important artist… or are we just absolute marks for Folds’ perfect grasp on a pop hook?

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Classic Albums

CA29 Gojira – Magma (Part 2)

In the second part of our two part look at the French metal pioneers, Steve and Remfry reevaluate Gojira’s 6th studio album, Magma, released on the 17th of June 2016.

We look at the state of the metal scene in the build up to the release of the album, how the stock of heavy music had dropped and how important it was to see the band return, we also consider the quality of the music released in the year 2016, a year that saw some integral records from across many genres and featured a series of albums that were thematically, if not sonically, linked to Gojira’s new effort, before we delve into the record itself. Born from personal tragedy and undeniably linked to the death of the Duplantier brothers Mother, Magma saw Gojira morph into a more melodic and accessible band, without losing any of the artistic integrity that had made them such an important band. Finally we look forward to the release of the bands upcoming Fortitude album. 

Available over on https://www.patreon.com/riotactpodcast