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Mr. T Experience – Yesterday Rules

The fact that Mr. T Experience made it to my car was no mistake. I put it in there because it is so much fun.

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I make the three hour trek from school in Los Angeles to home once a month on average, summer included. Before each trip I load the car and refill my CD player. I often find that I have trouble picking only 6 CDs to accompany me on my journey. Still, I manage by making sure I have a good variety of damn good music. On my most recent trip back from L.A., I had a rather entertaining combination of CDs holstered in the trunk. A little side note: I try to shove my CDs in the holders very fast so that I don’t remember which one is in which slot in order to aide in the suspense of what will be next and the thrill of being able to recall it.

The line up from my last trip (still in my car, a whole two weeks later) was (in order … it doesn’t take long to figure it out): Waking Ashland – I Am For You (not sure if that’s the title), Mr. T Experience – Yesterday Rules, The Long Winters – When I Pretend to Fall, The Shins – Chutes Too Narrow, Switchfoot – Beautiful Letdown, and Common Rider – This is Unity Music. Another side note: I can’t believe I forgot how incredible this album is (the Common Rider one). I remember thinking that the first album was awesome and the second one not so hot. I was quite mistaken.

The fact that Mr. T Experience made it to my car was no mistake. I put it in there because it is so much fun. Before I listened to this album I had only heard two songs by Mr. T Experience, “Leave the Thinking to the Smart People” and “Even Hitler Had a Girlfriend.” Given my limited experience with the band’s music I was very surprised by what I heard when I put the release in my player for the first time (at least a month before the trip … yes, this review is long overdue). The first song that spits out of my speakers (which is in, yes IN, the ceiling) was not like the songs I had heard. It wasn’t acoustic, it wasn’t soft, it wasn’t mellow and the lyrics were not blatantly amusing. The lyrics were interesting enough though. As one would expect, there are plenty of great quips and consistent bursts of wit. My favorite being, “smart things come in stupid packages.”

For those of you who are fans of the two songs I mentioned earlier, there are a few (which is more than two, that is a couple) which hold the same air and flow. There is a wonderful variety in this album not only with the instruments but also in the use of words and metaphors alike. It is rare that I am interested in the lyrics of many bands these days, aside from wanting to sing the correct words in my car. The script of this album is as exhilarating, interesting and thoughtful as the performance. With the mix of songs ranging from acoustic guitars to songs with fast electric guitars (don’t forget the great drumming, bass work and keyboarding) and songs with incredibly melodic singing, to the more ballad-like songs soaked in smart (and I mean smart) and pervasive words, this CD will most likely remain in my car for treks to come … given the vast amount of bonus features on the disc, I may remove it from the car only to give some joy to my computer.

(Lookout Records)

Reviews

Alice Cooper – Breadcrumbs EP

Few frontmen of rock will ever be as enigmatic and as timeless as Alice Cooper

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Alice Cooper Breadcrumbs

For a large number of Alice Cooper fans who didn’t experience everyone’s favorite snake-adorned shock rocker at the height of his powers through the ’70s, most probably were introduced to Cooper through 1989’s hair-metal infused generational breakout album Trash. That was at least, my introduction to Vincent Furnier, at the age of 9 years old, seeking for something to satiate my love of hair metal and shock rock. Trash was everything Bon Jovi’s New Jersey was- big, radio-friendly- but had that added sense of danger and darkness that didn’t come with the pretty side of hair metal. However, as sure as songs like “House of Fire“, “Bed of Nails“, and the ubiquitous hit “Poison”, are still great today, long-time Alice Cooper fans know that Cooper is at his most enthralling is when he taps into his garage rock lineage, cut from the same mold that was paved by bands like the MC5.

So for those born in the early 80s like myself, the initial foray into the world of Alice Cooper meant that you had to work your way back into this long-running discography to find the rich, often timeless work Cooper is best known for. In 2019 Alice Cooper himself is working his way back on his latest EP, the aptly titled Breadcrumbs. The 6-song EP finds Cooper revisiting music and artists connected thematically by what ties them all together- the Motor City. This Detroit-centric EP features Alice Cooper’s take on songs by Suzi Quatro, The Dirtbombs, Motown soul singer Shorty Long, and of course, The MC5 (the EP also features guest guitar and vocal work from Wayne Kramer). Included in the mix are a reworked version of the 2003 Alice Cooper song “Detroit City” and one new cut, “Go Man Go”.

On his reworked “Detroit City”, the song is given a rawer makeover, sounding far less produced than the original. Gone are the orchestral overdubs with the song relying more on the loud bluesy guitars- perhaps the way it was meant to sound. Suzi Q’s “Your Mama Won’t Like Me” stays fairly faithful to the original, but Quatro’s vocal sneer is replaced with.. well, Alice Cooper’s vocal sneer. MC5’s “Sister Anne” is almost as great as the original 1971version, with the added benefit of today’s production qualities.

The EP’s one new track, “Go Man Go”, is very much Detroit, and very much Alice Cooper. It’s rock n’ roll roots are coated with a little bit of rockabilly, a little bit of garage, a lot of attitude. Like this EP, the track should be a precursor of Alice Cooper’s anticipated next album. The hope is that he continues this work of keeping things dirty rock n’ roll as the results are more often than not, pretty great.

Few frontmen of rock will ever be as enigmatic and as timeless as Alice Cooper. Breadcrumbs is a noble effort meant to tease and build anticipation than satisfy your craving for all new Alice Cooper material. It’s done just that, hinting at what could be around the corner. On top of which it shows that there are few rock stars who will ever reach the status and longevity of everyone’s favorite rock n’ roll snake charmer.

(earMUSIC)

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Reviews

Goo Goo Dolls – Miracle Pill

The Goo Goo Dolls have always just written good music for people who cared only that the music was good

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Goo Goo Dolls Miracle Pill

One of the most remarkable things about the Goo Goo Dolls is their steadfast consistency amongst the ever-changing backdrop of popular music. Six years ago when they released Magnetic, I wrote that the band remained unchanged in the face of their supposed “waning popularity” in the eyes of pop culture and radio charts. It’s true that many of their contemporaries that made it big alongside them in the late 1990s are long gone, but for the Goos, they’ve quietly continued to be above everything else, themselves, just older, wiser, and continuingly more refined. Miracle Pill is their 12th studio album and is the natural progression from 2016’s Boxes. Like their previous release, Miracle Pill continues their musical evolution away from alternative rock to the more serene territory of adult contemporary. Sure, it may sound like a bad thing, but like everything the Goos have done over the past 25 years, it’s supremely confident and composed.

They may not write songs with the caustic bite like “Here Is Gone” anymore, but they have been finding comfort in the more introspective pop-strewn melodies found in songs like “Lights”. Similarly, in the new album’s lead single and title track, the Goos tap into bouncy, easy-to-digest pop empowerment. Songs like “Indestructible” show that the band haven’t put down their guitars just yet, constructing songs that are still fond of their alternative rock roots but have found comfort in grander, more expansive sounds.

The album’s best moments are when the Goo Goo Dolls unashamedly tug on the heartstrings like they’ve done so many times before. The quiet jangly nature of “Over You” does this particularly well, while the bigger, electronic-infused arena rock of “Lost” shows that this type of music is just done extremely poorly by bands like Imagine Dragons. “Autumn Leaves” is a throwback to the kind of songs found on Let Love In and Dizzy Up The Girl, sounding organic and wistful, while the closing of “Think It Over” is the kind of song they’ve been hinting at since Something For The Rest Of Us. It’s part quintessential Goos, but contemporary and timeless at the same time.

Credit to the Robby Takac songs of the album too- “Step In Line”, “Life’s a Message”- both some of the finest songs Takac has written. He is often cast in the shadow of John Rzeznik’s more recognizable sound, but on Miracle Pill, his work is the best its sounded since Dizzy.

The Ringer recently wrote a piece titled ‘The Goo Goo Dolls Were Never the Cool Kids, but They’re Still Standing’. I echoed these sentiments in that Magnetic review years ago, but if there was anything long time Goo Goo Dolls fans know is that the band were never concerned about popularity or being “cool”. The problem with being cool in music is that it fades. The Goo Goo Dolls have always just written good music for people who cared only that the music was good. Not much has changed in that sense, and really, that’s much better than being cool.

(Warner Bros.)

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