I’ll freely admit, despite being a massive Queen fan, this is the only actual Queen album I own. The rest are live albums or greatest hits. I think they have a weird issue when it comes to their songs in that they’ve got so many well known ones. As such when you buy a greatest hits from them it’s got so many songs on it that you kind of forget that they have others because, well, there’s three albums of songs here and you know every one, it’s not like a lot of greatest hits albums where there’s a few you don’t know or don’t like. There’s very few bands/singers who are like that, the only ones that come to mind are Elvis, The Beatles, and possibly Bob Dylan. This album though is the best example of this though as it kicks off with the best unknown Queen song; Death On Two Legs. Anybody who has spoken to me about Queen albums knows how much I love this song and I DESPERATELY want My Chemical Romance to cover this song to bring it to a wider audience. It’s bombastic, it’s musically brilliant, and the lyrics are unbelievably harsh, people tend to think of Queen as a band you can show to everybody, forgetting how damn sexual this band could be at times, and that they sing lyrics (as they do in this) like:
“Do you feel like suicide? I think you should”
This songs lyrics were so harsh that the person it was about (their early manager Norman Sheffield), sued the band for defamation. He won and received an out of court settlement, with the downside of confirming that this song is actually about him. People love other songs, but to me this is Mercury’s finest hour as a songwriter.
It’s not just him though, whilst John Deacon only writes one song this album, it’s one hell of a song. You’re My Best Friend is a very sweet and lovely song, despite sounding nothing like a lot of Queen songs, it still sounds like a Queen song somehow. It’s not many bands who can go from bombastic rock through to a slow melodic acoustic number on the same album, and have it not sound like “ok this is our obligatory acoustic song”. Special mention should also go to ’39, a science fiction song that deals with time dilation and Einstein’s special theory of relativity, which for some reason is not that popular a subject among most songwriters, can’t imagine Rihanna doing a song about Fermat’s Last Theorem, although I think Ke$ha could pull it off.
So yeah, this album has such a wide variety of songs that it’s almost like a compilation album, and that is why to me whilst it’s not quite perfection, it’s pretty darn close. Oh, it also features a song called Bohemian Rhapsody which I’d recommend listening to, I can imagine it becoming really popular.
The year was 2009, the R-rated mega hit Deadpool was but a twinkle in Ryan Reynolds’ eye, and Zach Snyder released his best film to date, the screen adaption of the unfilmable graphic novel, Watchmen. And it was a bit mixed. People either loved it for its gritty, stylish, thought provoking take on the superhero genre, while others hated it for all those things. But you can guess which side of that I fall upon. Hell, I still think it’s the best superhero film ever made, yes, I like it more than any Dark Knight or Marvel film, and here’s why…
1) It’s a dark realistic take on superheroes that really tackles complex themes and ideas, while still being a straight-up superhero flick. Not a crime thriller with Batman, or a comedy with a guy in a suit, at its core it’s a superhero film and is about things only a superhero film could be about, ‘what if superheroes where real’, did change our world, what would that world be like and who would those heroes be?
Of course this is all more thanks to Alan Moore’s seminal original text, but you can’t understate how hard Zach Snyder worked to bring the book to the screen as it’s whole self (it’s whole 215 minute run-time), and managing to make such a dense piece of literature so stylish and well-paced without losing a lot of meaning and depth.
2) Snyder’s style is stunning (what the fucks happened); easily Snyder’s most confidently directed film, his key hyper-reality style that mixes CGI better than almost any film, works masterfully to bring the pages of the book to life, without losing the texture and grit. With the talent he showed here he could have easily gone on to be a blockbuster director like a quirkier James Camron, but instead he made Sucker Punch.
3) The cast; the acting is top notch, with almost every actor born to play their character. Patrick Wilson bringing the likable dorkyness to Night Owl, Billy Crudup selling the detached humanity of Dr Manhattan, Jackie Earle Haley embodying Rorschach’s grizzled insanity, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan embracing the assholeness of The Comedian, costume changes aside they walk right off the page.
Outside Heath Ledger’s Joker it’s one of the few superhero films with Oscar worthy performances…. all except Matthew Goode who was just too smarmy as Ozymandias, you could tell from the go he was evil so the reveal lost a lot of weight compared to the comic; he’s not bad just too evil. Now a young pre-Thor Chris Hemsworth would have been closer to the book, his more natural charisma and warmth making his dark motives a real shock.
4) The music; Snyder’s use of iconic 80s tunes to invoke the era and themes of revolution is carefully implemented, from the iconic Bob Dylan opening credit sequence, the cheesy Leonard Cohen sex scene, and the sad Simon and Garfunkel funeral, Watchmen took seminal well known songs, and instead of being distracting fit them skilfully into the story as if they’ve always been there. Oh and the My Chemical Romance cover is badass, they really embrace the 80s punk vibe.
5) The ending. I am not to my surprise part of a small community that like the films ending better than the comic, even amongst people who have read the comic. The comic’s ending may work better from a plot stand point (some say), but the film’s use of Dr Manhattan in it’s climax comes from much more of a character and thematic place, and ties into Dr Manhattan’s dehumanizing arc so much tighter, and the ideas of nuclear war. It’s not just that I think the endings better than the book; it’s what that represents about the power of adaption through someone else’s vision, that making changes to original text doesn’t have to come from a hollow, money grubbing place, but from the texts itself…also the giant squid would of looked silly on screen. But more so because it wasn’t Hollywoodised, it was complex and morally gray and left us with a message not many blockbusters have the balls to tell, that as people we will expect an easy lie over a hard truth. We are compromised.
For a deeper look at the film and the comic, check out the Superhero Rewind on it which dives deep into analyzing the work.
Well not our most thorough post, but good enough for now, join us later this week and next week were we’ll…probably be talking about the Oscars.
Similar to our Recasting blogs, in this new category we take a look at popular albums and dream up insane but also sometimes sensible choices for which acts we’d have cover each track…if for some reason the album was ever re-recorded or something. This week emo-poster child My Chemical Romance’s seminal album, the rock record that made people take them seriously and completely miss the point, The Black Parade.
The End. – Frank Turner
It’s already starts acoustic, so let’s get this record kicked off with Mr Acoustic punk himself, to toss some tables and add a true sense of honesty to it. Now this could go either way, one) it’s a slow moving purely acoustic track like Journey of the magi, that really feeds the heart. Or two) it’s a builder like Do you believe that starts acoustic then builds to a true foot-stomping, jaunty rocker.
Dead! – Streetlight Manifesto
This is one of the safer choices on this list. The grandfathers of ska punk taking this fast fun rock tune and jigging it up with trumpets and rough vocals; simple but effective.
This Is How I Disappear – Brandon Flowers
This isn’t The Killers I’m talking about. I’m talking about the right now Brandon Flowers’ solo career of glorious 80’s pop jams, and that’s what I want him to do to this. Slow it down, throw in the sexy synth and pulsating drum machines, swoon over it, and make it an 80s crooner you can dance to! Why? I don’t know. This is just the song I can see fitting that style better than any other, and because at its heart it’s still a love song.
The Sharpest Lives –Red Hot Chili Peppers
Being one of MCR’s quickest lyrical songs, Anthony Kiedis’s rap style of singing would suit it to a tee, adding a wiry wit to the sharp lyrics of partying and drinking problems. Then throw in Flea funking up the bass, and suddenly this downer song will shine like a fun sunny day while still meditating on the dark issues of drinking ya self into an early grave. Sounds like a Chili’s song to me.
Welcome to the Black Parade – Andrew Jackson Jihad
The oddest choice I’d say on this list; but when it comes to a classic anthem like Welcome to the Black Parade, a song that’s such a staple of the band, there’s no point going for an act to try and match it. All you can do is give it to people who would completely change it; and that’s what this emotional and endearingly nasal, folk ska-ish band would do. Strip the grandness down to its black bones and give you the raw emotion behind the song, in an honest, cutting, but joyous fashion.
(give them a chance, they’re a grower)
I Don’t Love You – Counting Crows
One of MCR’s most swooning songs, about the realization that the love you once felt so strong has withered up and gone. So who better but the rambling beat poet-esque Adam Duritz and his roots rock group, to strip away the melodrama and bring it down to its meaning and words as he heart-wrenchingly rambles through them. It would be poetry to my ears….if only mine.
House of Wolves – Touché Amore
This is a personal favorite of a lot of people who don’t even like My Chemical Romance. It’s a swaggering punk-rock jam; so let’s turn that up to eleven and let post-hardcore giants Touché Amore, shout it out at double volume and double the speed. It would be louder, it would be rawer, and it would pack twice the punch.
Cancer – Regina Spektor
It’s a sad song, but give it to the endlessly cheery Regina Spektor and…it would still be a sad song, but her natural quirkiness would add a new humor to contrast and emphasis the misery, and overall add new depth to this death lament.
Mama – Poets of the fall
Poets of the fall have a lot of kinship with My Chemical Romance. They’re both theatrical rock bands with a flair for the overdramatic, though Fall’s style falls more in tune with a light operatic Rammstein. And if you’re wondering if you’ve heard them before, they did most of the soundtrack of Alan Wake. But yes, Mama; a bold, melancholy and jaunty tune that you could either strip down or build up, so let’s build this fucker up to the operatic hard rock epic this band would turn it into, till it wouldn’t sound out of place in Repo: the genetic opera.
Sleep – White Lies
After their seminal third album Big TV, these 80’s loving new wave rockers have become one of my most listened to on my iPod. So this song was less of a case of what band could play this song, and what song would suit White Lies synth laden ethereal style, and of cause Sleep fits perfectly. The slower, sombre tone is begging to be synth-ified and crooned out by Harry McVeigh’s baritone, which would add a dramatic, dark, danciness.
Teenagers – Green Day
Because of course; some bands I picked because of how different they’d make the song, Green Day I picked because they could arguably do it better and punkier than MCR already did. It wouldn’t be very different but it would make it even funner, and add some needed levity to this pretty silly anthem.
Disenchanted– Bruce Springsteen
I’m not talking about the Born to run, Born in the USA, Springsteen, I’m talking about the Youngstown, Devils and Dust,Springsteen, the stripped back folk Springsteen. That style combined with Springsteen’s world weary voice, would really bring a nuance and heartbreak to these lyrics, and turn it into an old country ballad in all the right ways.
Famous Last Words – Rammstein
My Chemical Romance have had forays into metal once or twice, and the ender to this epic album is definitely on the side of hard rock, so who better to take it over the edge while maintaining the glory and finesse that comes with it, than the German metal gods that is Rammstein. Their fast heavy style combined with Till Lindemann’s grizzled bellow would just make this an orgastic and epic affair; the perfect way to end this bizarre genre hopping cover album.
So what do you think of this new Black Parade? Agree? Disagree? Couldn’t care less? Who would you want covering these songs? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page here.
OH SNAP! Bonus track! Blood– Bob Dylan
Because it would be funny, because Dylan’s ramshackle voice and sweet melancholy could actually turn this silly little diddy into a genuine song of loss and lament. And that would be the best joke of all.
Come again Friday, when our other producer recounts his cast for his Black Parade!
For those of you who don’t know, Explosions in the Sky are one of the forefathers of Post-rock, a genre of rock that uses “guitars as facilitators of timbre and textures” and are really the first purely instrumental band I’ve really gotten into. For those who know me (so clearly everyone who reads this…) when it comes to my music I’m all about the content.
I appreciate and enjoy good music, but I can put a lot aside if I like the voice and lyrics; so your Bruce Springsteen’s, Bob Dylan’s, Gaslight Anthem’s, Tom Waits’, have always been a favorite; Explosions in the Sky has changed that.
I’ll really just be talking about the band as whole over a specific album, as like all great things, I didn’t get into them one by one but all at once and all together.
I guess what sets them apart from other progressive bands, (Dream Theater and Transatlantic come to mind because of my shallow understanding of the genre), is one, length, with most songs only ten minutes or less and not up to twenty or more. And two, their pure use of progression, as they have a much deeper use of building melody, instead of just building rhythm like I’ve commonly heard in the genre. Melodies that actually build into a climax and end, not just peter out or climax and then have a warm down fuck.
Take the first song from their first album, A song for our Fathers, from How Strange, Innocents, or the first song from their fifth album, The Birth and Death of the Day, from All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone. Their songs never sound like they’re just showing off their technical skills like a lot of instrumental songs I’ve heard, and there’s still always this sense of structure and meaning behind the music.
Even if the words aren’t there you can still feel the meaning, the story, what’s going on behind the sound and why it was worth making at all. It’s music that can build from burying your head in the dirt, to screaming from a thousand different rooftops.
But what really helped get me into this band is how excellent it is to read and write to. As a semi-professional reader and writer I can say it’s impossible to do either with music that involve lyrics, as unsurprisingly having someone else’s words and voice in your head when you’re trying to think is pretty distracting.
But don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Explosions in the Sky are good because they just make good background sound, they go beyond just filling in a sound gap, and actually help stimulate the mind. Helping you to focus and generate content (I’m listening to them as I write this) as their sweeping melodies soar and crash into distorted haze, and you write the best work you’ve ever put to paper, or read the best book you’ve ever held.
Explosions in the Sky are the soundtrack of the heart and soul. (And Saturday Night Lights)
22nd December 2002 is possibly the most important day in my life from a music listening perspective. The day Joe Strummer died. Some of you may be aware that The Clash are one of my favourite bands, and I’m not alone in that respect, they were widely called The Only Band That Mattered and they’re good enough that that name doesn’t seem like hyperbole. Which makes me feel even more guilty about what I’m about to say, I didn’t know who The Clash were when Strummer died, in fact his death was what made me a fan of the band. Not in a hipster-ish “I only bands who were underground so I wait for members to die” kind of way, don’t worry. I was sitting at home one day flipping through the music channels when he died, I know this as London Calling played on Q (I think), and it was labeled “London Calling – The Clash. Joe Strummer R.I.P”. For some reason it was the first time I had paid much attention to that song, and something clicked in my head about how good it is. Then I went through to another channel and they played Should I Stay Or Should I Go? I was amazed. How can one band perform two songs that sounded so different? Then the triangle of triumph was complete when a channel played Rock The Casbah. It was at that point I knew I needed to find out more about this band, so, Boxing Day, 2002 I went to The Shop Formally Known As Sounds Perfect and brought what would turn out to be one of my favourite albums of all time: London Calling. To those of you who haven’t listened to this album: you’re less of a person and you should fix that immediately. Since then I’ve heard the other albums they’ve made, and whilst they’re all good, they’re no London Calling. I think part of that is because of the experimentation shown on this album. Very few albums have as many different genres on show here: almost every song sounds different from the next, with some punk, some ska, some lounge, some R&B, some reggae, some jazz etc. In terms of styles the album is just a hodgepodge of different styles and clashes that combine to form something truly wonderful, in much the same way as London (specifically, Camden). This album is, still today, the sound of London in much the same way that It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back is the sound of New York. It’s not just the music, it’s also the lyrics. The album is not just good (in my opinion, whilst Sum41 may have named their album as such, this album is the true All Killer, No Filler album), lyrically this album is a masterpiece, covering the issues that needed to be covered right now. From unemployment through to racial conflict, drug use and the responsibilities of adulthood. Guns Of Brixton (a.k.a: the song that launched a thousand basslines, seriously, this has to be the most punk song which you could use as the backdrop for a hip hop song) has one of the intense opening lines of a song:
When they kick at your front door How you gonna come? With your hands on your head Or on the trigger of your gun
The fact that such brutal lyrics were laid against one of the best bass backdrops in music history opened the casual listeners minds up to the situation. The trouble with a lot of punk music is it’s preaching to the already converted. If the Sex Pistols were singing to people who were punks, it was The Clash that turned these people punk in the first place. The Clash are like Bob Dylan in that they have influenced outside of their genre. The best way to gauge a bands influence is via tribute albums. Yes, The Ramones tribute album does seem to have a wide variety of bands (Metallica, RHCP, Rob Zombie etc) the only true completely strange one to see is U2. The Clash, however, on Burning London have not only the expected ones (No Doubt, Rancid, Mighty Mighty Bosstones) they also have some you’d never have expected (Ice Cube, Moby). If a band can lay claim to have influenced bands as diverse as that, they must truly be something special.
Now onto my favourite part of this album, how it was released. Now, the band had had trouble with their record label prior to this. CBS had refused to release the bands debut album in the US, released singles the band didn’t want, and asked them to clean up their sound. The issues for this album came from the band wanting to release a double album, the record label refused because they were assholes. They did, however, allow them to release a free single with the album. So the band put a free single with the album, it was just a single that contained a lot of B-sides, in fact, almost an entire albums worth of B-sides. Since the deal was that the single would be free with the album, this meant that the (now) double album would be released at the same price as a normal album. The band won as they got to release the album as it was intended, the fans won as they didn’t have to pay more, and the record company lost, which is exactly how it should be.
So yeah, that’s why I love this band, and why this album is one of the most important pieces of music I’ve ever heard. And why it makes me feel even worse that it took the death of the singer to realise how amazingly talented this band is. People can keep their 1959 plane crash, for me, 22nd December 2002 is the real day the music died, and the day it was reborn, out of the fire like a phoenix, into my head, and into my heart.
Like if you enjoy
Rage Against The Machine
After this, check out
Chimes Of Freedom: The Songs Of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years Of Amnesty International. A 4 disc tribute album to Bob Dylan, only one song is featured more than once, and every song was recorded specifically for the album. Dylan is one of the select few artists you could do this with, especially with the amount of talent on show: This is the only album where MCR, The Gaslight Anthem, Rise Against and Bad Religion sit alongside Mick Hucknall, Miley Cyrus, Bryan Ferry, Natasha Bedingfield, Sting and Adele.
Heartattack. I knew I had to put a modern punk compilation on here. Was going to put one of the Punk-O-Rama albums on here but then realised I listen to the songs from here a lot more. Featuring a bonus disc of new songs to celebrate Burning Heart records, this album features some truly fantastic songs.